Wine and romance have been active bedfellows since ancient times. The Greek and Roman Gods of Wine, Dionysus and Bacchus respectively, also presided over poetry, fertility, parties and other “Bacchanalian” delights. In possibly the first ever version of the ‘get out of jail free’ card, those who got a tad too hedonistic were said to be possessed by the God’s spirit. Divine intervention. Nothing to do with too many cheeky vinos.
Wine has had an affinity with the more romantic career paths too, from poets to playwrights. 17AD the Roman poet Ovid wrote in The Art Of Love that wine “warms the blood, adds lustre to the eyes and wine and love have ever been allies”. Eighteen centuries later and rather more succinctly Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “wine is bottled poetry”.
It has taken centre stage in pivotal film scenes from the iconic “Here’s looking at you kid” toast between Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca to when Richard Gere orders champagne and strawberries for Pretty Woman’s Julia Roberts (though looking back at the latter scene, I am unsure of its true romantic qualification).
A bottle of wine is designed to be shared. There is that certain sense of ceremony which comes from popping the cork and pouring the wine. Or if you are going for a lusty red, decanting it. Look also at the language used to describe this beverage, “voluptuous, silky, supple, luscious”. No pint of ale gets this kind of linguistic treatment.
It is not just the wine itself either, the whole idyll of sweeping vineyard vistas and warmer climes is full of amorous potential. “Couples’ interest in their wedding wine has grown considerably over the last decade,” says Hamish Shephard, founder of Bridebook.com. “Vineyards are [now] in the top three most popular locations for weddings abroad, whether this is France, Spain, Italy, Napa or South Africa”. It seems just being surrounded by grapes and vines is enough to set our hearts a-flutter.
Champagne is, of course, the romanticist’s beverage of choice. Each year sales shoot up in the week before 14 February, confirmed by charismatic Champagne Ambassador Ethan Boroian, who says there is always a “surge around the Hallmark Holidays like Valentine’s Day” thanks to this wine’s history and potential for gifting.
I have certainly done my due diligence for this week’s recommendations, though you can also look to South Africa’s Cap Classique and Spain’s Cava for affordable, good quality fizz.
Be sure to serve it well chilled but the glassware is up to you. Coupes have the vintage glamour and flutes have been de rigueur for a while now. If you want to be particularly on trend, however, you will notice that bubbly buffs and plusher establishments have shifted towards a more open, tulip-shaped glass which allows better enjoyment of the aromas of finer sparkling wines.
Now you just need to find someone to enjoy a glass with…
KLein Constantia Méthode Cap Classique 2017, £18.50, The Champagne Company
I often look to South Africa for fantastic value sparkling and this did not disappoint. Subtly spiced citrus and blossom on the nose opening up to green apples and a long finish. A fine playful mousse but a rich complex flavour.
Ruinart Rosé NV, £74.99, Majestic
For champagne enthusiasts Ruinart was the first established Champagne House and the first to create a rosé champagne. This chic new ‘second skin’ is eco-friendly, 100% recyclable and features a design by artist David Shrigley and the vibrant wine is full of ripe cherry and fresh citrus.
Veuve Clicquot Rosé 2012, £68, Clos19.com
A house which prides itself on “only one quality, the finest” this lively champagne could cellar for another 20 years, but it is delicious now. Bright red berries laced with aromatic spices of clove and vanilla.
Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2015, £90, Majestic
This refined champagne is made from only Grand and Premier Cru grapes. Refreshing citrus, a hint of honeyed apples and just a kiss of delicate patisserie. The silky, smooth bubbles are a joy making this agile wine the sophisticated choice.
Graham Beck Yin & Yang Duo, £80, Harvey Nichols
The perfect gift for that person who completes you. This tasty Cap Classique duo is part of the limited Artisan Collection by popular South African winemaker Graham Beck. One Chardonnay dominant, the other Pinot Noir. Will you embrace your light or dark side?