Whether you’ve been shivering through the deep freeze of the polar vortex, or simply shivering with nerves before a first date, try spicing things up with my top five red wine picks for Valentine’s Day. Selected with heart and heat in mind, they’re a sure bet for all winter nights well past the 14th.
1. Penisola Sorrentina Gragnano, Monteleone 2012
YES WE CAN recommend a sparkling dry red wine to start. And this time it’s not Lambrusco. Gragnano DOC comes from Campania, the hot southeastern region, home to Naples and the unquestionable epicenter of the quintessential pizza. Made from dark and tannic Aglianico and Piedirosso grapes, this wine is bone dry with pretty floral aromas and a vinous, fresh grape nose. It’s effervescent and clean, which makes it the perfect companion to pizza. Casual and fun, consider this pick for a romantic first date at a gourmet pizza place. Who doesn’t like pizza?
2. Brunello di Montalcino, Armilla, 2008
Sangiovese is not always Sangiovese. In this case, it’s Sangiovese Grosso – with round red cherry notes and an ever-so-slightly mushroom and wet-earth quality to balance out the prettiness. This Brunello is the run in her stockings that keeps you intrigued… the seemingly effortless combo of combat boots and lace. It’s elegant and silky, and well worth the price tag. Try it with an equally prohibitive meal. Something red and rare, accompanied with roasted root vegetables dressed in aromatic herbs.
Amarone is so much more than raisin wine. Three types of grapes (Molinara, Corvina, and Rondinella from the Veneto region (think: dark, mysterious, Venice after hours, autumn…) are dried in drafty alcoves until they shrink to two thirds of their originally swollen size. The yields of this wine are extremely low, which is part of what makes it so prestigious. It’s also an incredible flavor experience, meant to be enjoyed over hours and hours. It could accompanied perhaps by chocolate or cheese, but mostly an attentive palate and a flickering candle. You’ll uncover dried fruit (figs, dates, dried currants), followed by coffee, cacao, leather and molasses, dried flowers and wet leaves…and that’s just the beginning. Treat this wine as an activity in itself, and enjoy it with someone whose side you can’t bear to abandon.
4. Côtes-du-Rhône Mon Coeur J.L. Chave – 2011
A beautiful blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah (Shiraz) from the Southern Rhône, this wine is a liquid equivalent of a hot summer night. Warm and inviting, it unfolds over time and ends spicy, thanks to the Granache (Garnacha), which reminds you just how southern you are, and that Spain isn’t too far off. Have this wine with lamb and sausages, or spicy mussels in a red sauce. In a way, it represents the feeling of the whole southern Mediterranean and North Africa. Fascinating and seductive. Make it count.
5. Brachetto d’Acqui Rosa Regale, Banfi 2011
Wrap up the evening or accompany a cheese plate with this delectable sweet wine. Another of the brilliant B’s from Piemonte, Brachetto produces a wine that smells like ripe summer strawberries and rose petals. A delight to sip in the right company, Brachetto is lightly sparkling and combines the youthful abandon of wild strawberry picking with iconic and aromatic elements of seduction. Think strawberry juice running down your chin and a splash of cool sparkle. Check please!