Nyetimber Rosé, Sussex, England NV (£31.49, waitrose) Drinking rosé champagne on Valentine’s Day is, I know, not the most spontaneous or original act of love. It’s the drink the Valentine’s Day industry tells us we can’t live without – a vehicle for the wine industry to exploit our insecurities and carve out a piece of that lucrative territory held by florists and greeting card companies. Well, to hell with cynicism: of all the trumped up traditions on this silliest, most commercialized festive occasion, rosé champagne is the one I’m happiest indulging in. It’s a style that has improved beyond measure over the past 20 years. Winemakers treat it much more seriously than before and make much more of it too (today rosé accounts for 10% of all champagne production; it was only 2% in 2000). Something similar has happened on this side of the Channel too: English sparkling makers are mastering wines with a sultry rose hue and, in the impeccable case of Nyetimber, gorgeous red fruit flavors.
Domaine Julien Sunier Wild Soul Beaujolais Villages 2020 (bbr.com; robersonwine.com) Other alluring pink sparkling wines to charm your loved one tomorrow include Fuchs & Hase Pet Nat Rosé from Austria (£20.40, peckhamcellars.co.uk); the punchy herby cherry-berry Co-op Cava Rosado Brut NV (£6.95, Cooperative) and the plump, satin-textured Ruinart Rosé Champagne NV with a tropical fruit scent (£69, jeroboams.co.uk). Do red sparkling wines count? Few are those who would not be won over by the easy natural charm of Casa Belfi Rosso Bio Frizzante, which comes from the land of Prosecco, is made in the traditional way where the wine ferments in the bottle, and which has a sweet suppleness to food. crunchy and biting with cherries. For those looking for a bubble-free Valentine’s Day, in France the Valentine’s Day industry would push you towards a bottle from one particular Beaujolais village: St-Amour. Domaine Billards 2019 (£15.99) is a bright, berry-filled delight. But, despite not having the affectionate name on the label, the Beaujolais-Villages bottling from Domaine Julien Sunier has a real silky, slinky allure.
Taste the difference Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France (£9, Sainsbury’s) Can a wine be sexy? Rather, the term is used in the wine-selling and wine-writing world, although it is usually a term of bloodless appreciation, rather than something more interesting. But some wines really have a certain X-rated je-ne-sais-quoi. There is, for example, something very sexy about the very good Pinot Noir reds from Burgundy. It has a lot to do with their sheer, silken cloth texture. But it’s also in the way that these wines, especially older wines, have something elusively animalistic about their scent, which gives them the same sort of mysterious, elemental appeal that you find in a really good handmade french perfume. Something similar happens with the gewürztraminer from Alsace. When young, it’s all heady, dizzying rose petal scent, as found in Sainsbury’s very pretty bottling. Try a mature bottle from a top producer such as Zind-Humbrecht or Marcel Deiss, however, and you’ll find yourself in for a whole new, more adult, multi-sensory experience.
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