The best way to a woman’s heart on Valentine’s Day is a subject that’s always up for debate. Even though flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates have been go-to contenders for decades, the old adage goes that candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.
Natalie MacLean, the wine expert and author of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, understands the truth behind the expression: Wine delivers romance with each sip.
“I think wine, at least to me, is the drink of conversation. You’re usually over a glass of wine watching each other, you’re talking, it’s over an evening, it lasts a long time, just like love should. We do come to the end of the bottle sometimes,” MacLean says. “You don’t give a six-pack and flowers for Valentine’s Day, you give a bottle of wine and often a bottle of sparkling wine and flowers or chocolates. It’s meant to be shared. It’s meant to be savoured slowly.”
However, selecting the most appropriate option when you’re at the liquor store can be an overwhelming task. Do you splurge on the $50 Chardonnay or reach for the more affordable box of Merlot?
Whether you’re indulging in a glass or a bottle, Natalie MacLean knows the most romantic, delicious and, most importantly, the most affordable wines that work best with your desired food combinations.
Candlelight Dinner for Two
With a bit of bubbly to lift the gloomiest of winter spirits, a fine choice of sparkling wine is sure to fizz the heart into a desired state of affection.
“Sparkling wine is a terrific wine for Valentine’s Day but you don’t have to splurge a lot, you don’t have to go out on a limb especially if you’re not fully convinced,” says MacLean, a self-described wine cheapskate who’s proud of it. “They’re tasty, they’re toasty, they’re refreshing and they’re very romantic, most importantly.”
Another delicious (and somewhat ironic) choice is Pinot Noir, a wine made from grapes that are dubbed the “heartache grape.” — not because of their unfruitful impact on relationships but because of their costly and difficult harvest. As a silky and dry red wine that perfectly and romantically compliments all of your food choices, it’s an easy and affordable choice.
Top bubbly pick: Perrin & Fils Réserve Blanc 2010 – $14.95
Top Pinot Noir pick: Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir 2010 – $12.95
Desserts and Wine to Die For
Picking a desert is the make-it or break-it for any Valentine’s Day date and so is picking the accompanying wine. Although chocolate based desserts are a no-brainer, from Black Forest cake to chocolate truffles, your choice of wine is a bit more finicky.
“The guideline is that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert,” says Natalie. “Otherwise the wine’s going to taste bitter and dull by comparison so you need to do sweet and sweet.”
For the deeply rich chocolate desserts, MacLean suggests grabbing a bottle of Port, a fortified wine full of extra body, extra sweetness and extra alcoholic heft that withstands chocolate’s own sweet and creamy flavour.
For more sensual desserts that combine the rich flavours of chocolate with the light flavours of fruit; like chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate dipped biscotti and chocolate fondue, a light and ultra-sweet icewine makes for a perfect pairing.
Top Port Pick: José Maria Da Fonseca & Van Zeller Vintage Domingos Soares Franco & Christiano Van Zeller Btld. 2005 Port 2003 – $19.95
Top Icewine Pick: Henry of Pelham Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2008 – $20.00