Thursday, February 11, 2016

Romantic Wines for Valentine's Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Great wines for special occasions should look as good as they taste. The rose category, both still and sparkling, continues to heat up with a range of wines that are lovely to sip before a meal and afterwards.

I have long been a fan of what I call the "rowdy roses," those intense pink wonders often made in Navarra, Bordeaux and even the hills of Northern Italy.

The Spanish tend to make lovely, frequently Grenache-based rose wines such as the Bodegas Nekeas "Vega Sindoa." Bordeaux uses its main red grapes to make big, fruit-forward quaffs such as Chateau Penin's blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvingon with a touch of merlot. Another favorite, berry-fueled pick is Mulderbosch's Cabernet Sauvignon rose from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Celebratory Reds
Big, unctuous reds--I particularly love blends be they from Bordeaux or South Africa--have always been festive. They are like a party in a bottle as they  reveal layer upon layer of their depth and flavors.

Eastern Washington's Walla Walla region continues to excel in making extraordinary blends, that can riff on both the Rhone and Bordeaux styles yet have their own New World energy). Reynvaan Family Syrah, made in a area called "The Rocks," because of its soil's similarity to the Rhone's pudding stone-laden lands, is a luscious French-inspired wine with a touch of Viognier added to smooth and balance it out.

Tuscany's complex Brunellos are full of spicy and complex flavors. They might pair as well with a home-cooked dish of meat as sip elegantly on their own by the glass in the evening (ideally by a fire). Piedmonte's Barolos and Barbarescos also rarely fail to disappoint. Produttori del Barbaresco coorperative-produced wine remains a favorite of mine.

Sexy Reds
The flavors of Middle Eastern food have long been sensual with hints of prunes and the crunch of almonds overlaid in many dishes. Morocco had long been making wine and Alain Graillot "Syrocco," Syrah has balanced alcohol, great fruit flavors and is Old World in style.

The dusty, earthy flavors of the reds from France's Rhone Valley always make my heart jump a beat with their intense mouth feel. Syrah and Grencache tend to play the biggest roles in these wines with often a half dozen others blended in for good measure. Saint Joseph can be among the region's most austere as an appellation and tends to be more vegetal and smoke-driven in flavor. Domaine Pascal Marthouret Saint Joesph is another great example and a is a bargain at $24.99.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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