Valentine’s Day comes 365 times a year for Christine Austin, who knows the way to a girl’s heart.
Check the date on this newspaper and you will see that we are rapidly approaching St Valentine’s Day. I only recently looked up the history of this saint and discovered that there may have been several saints of that name, and in most cases, it didn’t end well for them. For the association of love and sentiment on Valentine’s Day we need to thank 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer who may have been the first to suggest that this saint’s day should be a celebration of romance.
But from our perspective in the 21st century, when we can get twice round the world faster than anyone can read The Canterbury Tales, do we really need a 700-year-old poet to tell us when we should take our loved ones out for dinner?
Instead perhaps every day should be a celebration of affection for our significant others? Not only would this take the pressure off one of the partners in a relationship by relieving them of the duty to book a restaurant, buy red roses and the right kind of expensive chocolates it would also shake up those restaurants that charge double for a fairly standard dinner with the added benefit of a candle and a glass of cheap bubbles.
The one essential component of an everyday-Valentine’s Day is wine. Even Chaucer recognised this. As the son and grandson of a vintner, he was probably as well versed in wine as anyone in England at the time, and after writing some significant work for Edward III he was granted a gallon of wine a day for the rest of his life. This works out at the modern equivalent of 2,200 bottles a year, so it is hardly surprising that some of the spelling in his vast portfolio of works is slightly challenging.
Quality not quantity is the message for everyday-Valentine’s Day, so sneak the occasional good bottle of wine into the fridge or the wine rack and don’t wait for a grand event to open it. Every morning that you have someone to share a newspaper and a half-full pot of marmalade with is a cause for celebration, so get planning for a special supper any day of the week.
Bubbles tell a girl – or a man – that you love them. It is the pop of the cork and the whoosh of the bubbles that lifts the mood. The bubbles also shift the alcohol faster from glass to bloodstream so take your time and sip, don’t gulp. Is it worth going pink? Definitely! From delicate shades of ballet-shoes pink to strident, almost red wines, the rose-petal aromas and red fruit flavours in pink bubbly add even more to your special evening.
What should you choose? Well if you are saving on the restaurant and the red roses, but possibly not the chocolates, then the budget has expanded a little. However, don’t forget that this is not a once-a-year celebration of love. It is a spur-of-the-moment injection of excitement, affection and enjoyment of each other’s company, so buy several and scatter these good wines through the next few months.
Taste the Difference Vintage Cava Rosé, Spain, Sainsbury’s, down from £9 to £7 until February 21: Unusually for Cava, this is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which gives the wine an elegant style and good depth of flavour. Rounded strawberry fruit, with a crisp dry finish make this a good partner for aperitifs, or alongside mussels, grilled fish and a touch of spice.
Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV, South Africa, Majestic, £11.99, down to £9.99 on a mix-six deal: This comes from one of South Africa’s best sparkling producers and is terrific value for its crisp, lively strawberry and cherry fruit and long, fresh finish.
Chandon Rosé NV Argentina, Majestic, £16.99, down to £13.99 on a mix six deal: Made by the same people who make Möet and Chandon champagne, but using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the sunshine of Argentina. The result is a wine that has a touch more flavour and even an edge of sweeter-tasting fruit. Perfect as an aperitif, but also good with spicy foods.
Henri Delattre Brut Rosé Champagne, Lidl, £14.99: Astonishingly good value for money with a light, easy-drinking style and a soft, gentle finish.
Sainsbury’s Brut Rosé Champagne, down from £23 to £20 until February 21: Bright, lively, fresh flavours with crisp raspberry fruit and a yeasty, toasted brioche note. Team this with smoked salmon or charcuterie.
Oudinot Rosé Champagne Brut, Marks & Spencer, £29, down by 25 per cent as part of a mix six: Consistently good with strawberry and cream aromas, red fruits on the palate and a clean, fresh finish.
Digby Leander Pink NV, English Sparkling Wine, Hic!, Ledston, £28: Expect to see this brand beside any rowing lake this summer. It has a creamy style with crunchy apple freshness and hints of red fruits.
Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut, Waitrose, £28.99: With the scent of a warm, English country garden, this has rose-petal aromas and a clean line of freshness on the palate.
Blow the budget
Bollinger Rosé Champagne, NV, Booths, down from £55 to £40 until February 28: Packed with strawberry fruit and silky style, this is a relatively new addition to the Bollinger range and they are hitting the mark with precision and elegance.
Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut, Waitrose, down from £58.99 to £43.99 until February 21: A classic among pink champagnes, this has a deep salmon-pink colour, terrific fruit character and a rounded creamy palate ending with a light touch of spice. A gorgeous wine, from aperitif to nightcap.