Wine: A recipe for romance
PUBLISHED: 13:38 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:37 20 February 2013
Wine: Edward Symonds of Saxtys, Hereford, has the ingredients for a fizzing February 14
As far as I'm aware, the original St Valentine, the Roman martyr, never touched a drop of champagne in his life, but fizz and the 14th of February have, nevertheless, become inextricably linked. And to be honest where would Valentine celebrations be without the excitement created by popping that champagne cork?
But what kind of fizz will you and the one you love be drinking on the 14th? To my mind, it rather depends on what you think you might want to eat that evening. I've never for a second believed that music is the food of love I rather reckon that food is the food of love, but some kinds of food are better for love than others. Big hunks of meat are right out of the question if you and your beloved wolf down a pound of steak each, the chances are that you'll want to curl up and sleep afterwards rather than get down to some serious romance.
Keep it light, instead.
The jury's out as to whether or not oysters are actually an aphrodisiac, but they're definitely easy on the digestive system and are deservedly popular fare on Valentine's Day. If you are dining on oysters this year, the champagne of choice must be a Blanc de Blancs. The delicate flavours, light body and zesty acidity of this style make it the perfect partner for oysters. If you're really pushing the romantic boat out and plan on tucking into caviar and blinis, a Blanc de Blancs is, once again, a great match as it won't dominate the subtle, salty flavours of the fish eggs.
Ros champagne has become increasingly popular in recent years, and because it's flirty and fun, it's a great Valentine's Day drink. Richer, fuller and fruitier than many styles of champagne, ros is an ideal accompaniment to many Asian dishes. If you're looking for a bit of spice this Valentine's Day, while I'd probably draw the line at teaming it with a full-on vindaloo, I'd be perfectly happy to match ros fizz to most types of Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai stir-fries (as long as there isn't too much chilli, as this will kill any wine stone dead).
Ros can even work with milder Indian curries - as can richer styles of vintage and NV champagne. If you're looking for the perfect ros this year, try Billecart-Salmon the NV is delicious, but if you can track down a bottle of the Cuve Elisabeth Salmon it's well worth the extra money. Other great ross are Mot NV ros and the Ruinart version.
Now if you really want to treat your loved one push the boat out and buy a bottle of Bollinger La Grande Anne 1999, Bollinger's prestige cuve, produced only in exceptional years. This may seem criminally quick to open a fine wine that is built for extended cellaring (for those who like aged champagne), but my wife and I found this wine to be seductive and wonderfully nuanced even at this young age. Fruit comes from only 17 Premiers and Grands Crus from among Champagne's 316 villages, and the 1999 harvest is said by Bollinger to be similar to 1970 and 1983, promising very high quality. A terrific wine.
The truth, though, is that Valentine's Day isn't one of those occasions when you should put too much stress on finding exactly the right wine for whatever you're planning on eating. Just enjoy whatever you're drinking and the moment and leave the fine-tuning for another night.
Saxtys of Hereford is offering a five-course Valentines menu prepared and cooked by Head Chef Mickey Osedo for just 25 per person. Bookings are being taken for both Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th February, call Emma on 01432357872 and she will do her best to try and fit you in.