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Love may be in the air on Valentine’s Day, but so are the aromas of beautiful wines: from earthy and silky to woodsy and delightfully effervescent. To prepare for a day of amorous affairs, perhaps you’ve made a reservation at a favorite restaurant and want to impress your date, or you’re preparing a special feast at home and need a great bottle of wine to pair with it. Or maybe you just want to treat yourself and decant a remarkable vintage.
No matter how you spend Valentine’s Day, your plus-one can always be a bottle of beautiful wine. Champagne is always a sure-fire favorite, especially a very on-theme pink bubbly like Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose. But beyond the bubbly, there's a whole world of wines to choose on a day when indulgence is welcomed. From a deeply complex amarone della valpolicella, produced in Verona—the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet—to a Portuguese alvarinho with the nuanced notes of salty and sweet, there’s something for everyone. Paired with a variety of desserts, bites of cured meats and cheese, and hearty main dishes like roasted chicken or bolognese, the right wine can make any meal more memorable and romantic.
We asked top sommeliers to share their favorite bottles to open for Valentine’s Day. Their diverse picks below will certainly get you well on your way to discovering exciting options–and may even score you some extra bonus points from the one you love.
Hailing from Spain and Portugal, a great white wine variety to look for on Valentine's day is albariño/alvarinho. Flavors of white peach and lemon mingle with a subtle saltiness, giving the palate a mouth rush of lively citrus notes.
“Particularly in Portugal, alvarinho wines boast a richer, fuller palate with beautiful citrus fruit notes and a distinct oiliness that perfectly pairs with seafood such as oysters, as well as truffle-dishes, which are known aphrodisiacs,” says Lydia Richards, a sommelier, Wine Enthusiast Top 40 Under 40 recipient, and co-founder of the non-profit organization Hispanics in Wine. She recommends Nortico Alvarinho, sourced from organically grown grapes from the southern banks of the Minho river in Portugal.
Lulú Martínez Ojeda, a Bordeaux-trained winemaker and sommelier based in Baja, California, calls Valentine’s Day rosé’s shining moment. She recommends the Bruma Ocho Sangiovese Rosé, which is hand-harvested and aged for six months in stainless steel.
“Bone dry, bright and crisp, this beautiful rose has delicate green strawberry notes, with an elegant svelte sophisticated finish. Pair it with a lavish charcuterie board that includes goat and sheep cheese, beautiful briny olives, amazing bread, fruity-floral olive oil, prosciutto, rillettes, and fresh melon,” she adds.
For a popular Italian wine with an exciting twist, wine pro Kelly Mitchell recommends Stolpman’s Love You Bunches Red. Harvested in Santa Ynez Valley, this sangiovese undergoes carbonic maceration–a technique that takes intact berries and immerses them with carbon dioxide to create a fruity, low tannin red wine. We also love the black heart etched into the bottle’s cork.
“The name of the wine says it all, and you can even write a personal love letter on the label. I recommended serving it with a slight chill (between 50-55 degrees). The wine has great fresh fruit flavors of red raspberry, red currant, rhubarb, and violet,” says Mitchell.
Iron Horse Vineyard’s memorable 2019 Wedding Cuvée has notes of lemon creme brûlée and spice that dance in tiny bubbles, imparting a flavor and texture that Gary Farrell Winery’s Estate Sommelier Gabe Brezic can’t get enough of.
“A bottle shared with my now-wife on an early date and countless times since, the lively balance of strawberries and raspberries with citrus zest carried by a delightfully creamy texture makes this quaffable sparkling a must have for Valentine’s Day, because nothing says romance like a delicious bottle of bubbly,” he says.
Make it a night of velvety Italian reds with the king and queen of Piedmont: barolo and barbaresco. Richards says, “Nebbiolo-based wines produce some of the most beautiful, thrilling reds. Powerful and vivid, with floral, smokey and bright red fruit notes, it's the perfect wine to drink while celebrating with your special someone. Ball out with barolo or barbaresco from iconic producer Gaja.”
The GAJA Barbaresco 2020, which comes from 14 blending sites, showcases what best of what Nebbiolo grapes have to offer with voluminous and complex fruit notes.
If you’re looking for a new wine to explore (and impress), consider manzanilla. The bone dry white wine is made from palomino grapes that are aged for at least two years under a layer of flor yeast. Manzanilla is almost identical to fino sherry, except it can only be produced in the Spanish village of Sanlúcar de Barrameda; the growing region's proximity to the sea gives the wine a lighter zest and salinity.
Martínez Ojeda says, “Certainly a Valentine's underdog but definitely as hot as it can get, I love manzanilla’s délicatesse approach that finishes with that sharp fresh dryness.” She suggests pairing this wine with oysters, poached shrimp, or even tinned fish such as anchovies.
Yes, chardonnay may be widely available, but knowing just which one to pick can make or break your ideal Valentine’s tasting. Decide whether you’re looking for stone fruit, punchy grapes grown from warmer climates, the restrained mineral elegance of Chablis, or even a bubbly iteration of the white grape.
“Chardonnay in its many forms is one of my favorite V-Day picks. From your bright, fruit-driven and focused American chardonnays from top producers like Maggy Hawk’s Skycrest Chardonnay, to the elegant and vigorous wines of Chablis (a great example is from Moreau-Naudet), and the sleek and racy Blanc de Blancs Champagne style (look for Pierre Peters), there's a chardonnay to enjoy and pair with any Valentine's Day activity,” says Richards.
Yes, the delicate pinot noir grape can be fussy based on climate, but the result is well worth the process. From Burgundy to Willamette Valley, this prized red wine expresses itself symbiotically with its terrain. Brezic’s recommendation is Gary Farrell 2021 Russian River Selection. He says it's “passionately crafted by a leading woman winemaker from world-class vineyards at one of the Russian River Valley’s pioneering wineries.”
Brezic says, “An aromatically seductive intermingling of Bing cherries and rose petals introduce a silky palate of layered red fruits and savory flavors, leading to a long, spicy finish,” adding that the wine pairs perfectly with rich dishes such as filet mignon, mushroom risotto, or duck confit.
For a Valentine’s digestif, up the bar with a glass of Armagnac, a brandy made from distilled white grapes. “Best served in a tulip-shaped glass to have that elegant James Bond-ish girl vibe to it, I like my Armagnac with a small dash of water to get more of those voluptuous floral notes,” says Martínez Ojeda.
She adds that it pairs particularly well with a cheese plate at the end of a meal. “Enjoy it with blue cheese like Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola or bleu d'auvergne, nuts and dried fruits. I love the finesse of the Cardinal du Four, 21 Rebellion Armagnac.”
Another bold red Richards says to look for is petite sirah. “It’s a rich, velvety wine that's being championed by a number of American producers around the country,” she says. Another fun fact? Petite sirah pairs well with chocolate–perfect for Valentine’s Day.
“I love the Jaffurs Petite Sirah, hailing from sunny yet cool climate Santa Barbara. It’s dark, inky and hot with velvety tannins and full of dark fruit flavors. It’s also incredibly versatile, you can pair it with rich, sweet barbecue and the nutty, earthy mole poblano; or with a sweet, decadent dessert like chocolate tort,” Richards adds.
For a blush-colored bubbly with a great history, Mitchell looks to Raventos. “With its pale pink hue and effervescence this sparkling rosé is the perfect Valentine’s Day wine. Founded in 1497, Raventos is an iconic Spanish winery with one of the longest documented wine growing history in the world. This is an elevated Spanish sparkling wine with a lower price point to Champagne, while being just as delicious,” says Mitchell.
If you do want to opt for some bubbly Champagne this Valentine's Day, think pink. “There is nothing better than treating your sweetheart with a bottle of Champagne, and Ayala Rosé Majeur NV is the perfect bottle for this moment. The soft pink color evokes the sweet strawberry and raspberry notes of this wine, making for a great way to begin or end the evening.”
Craig Collins, master sommelier and Vintus director of brand development adds, “Ayala Rosé Majeur is also very versatile with food and will make everything from chocolates, French fries, cheese, or caviar shine. It will go quickly, so you may want to grab two bottles!”
Known for its lush black fruit quality, Mitchell calls zinfandel the quintessential winter red. Dashe Cellars’ Zinfandel Vineyard Select has aromas of black raspberry, pomegranate and other red fruit that mingle with hints of cocoa powder.
“This wine is made by a husband and wife winemaking team, Michael and Anne Dashe. Early in their relationship, Mike and Anne dreamed of blending their passion for winemaking with their love of the San Francisco Bay Area. A love story!,” Mitchell adds.
Richards says luscious, fuller-bodied reds are perfect for Valentine's Day; one of her all-time favorites is amarone—a wine with a famed location. “Amarone della valpolicella is a wine produced in the region near the city of Verona, also known for its two famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet. An iconic wine with incredible presence and vibrancy, it's excellent with more lavish dishes such as ossobuco and beef bourguignon; a must-amarone to look for is Bertani,” she says.
Another pick from the location that set the background to the love story of Romeo & Juliet, Collin’s amarone choice is from a family that has produced the wine for almost 100 years. Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018 is a “blended red wine, dominated by the indigenous corvina grape; it's big, bold and powerful.” He adds, “I recommend pairing this wine with grilled or braised meats and opening the bottle one hour before enjoying it with your own Romeo or Juliet,” he says.
For depth of flavor, cabernet sauvignon always delivers. With notes that range from black pepper to black currant, this red wine can liven up the palate and any meal.
“Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate your significant other and what could be more romantic than a winery founded on a love story? The Bernstein’s purchased their first plot on Mount Veeder in the mid-1960s as a romantic retreat and it eventually turned into one of the foundational wineries of Napa Valley. The Mount Veeder Napa Valley 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon is structured and powerful, boasting notes of dark fruits and balanced with a silky and hot texture,” says Master Sommelier Jason Smith.
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