The wine business never saw a holiday or special occasion it didn’t love. Other than Thanksgiving, wines for Valentine’s Day are probably the most heavily marketed of the year, and with good reason. Red, pink, bubbles — they all lend themselves easily to the Valentine’s Day celebration.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past few weeks, and while the possibilities are endless, three wines from Italy stand out as great Valentine’s Day choices at moderate prices. A glass of each would help make your Valentine’s evening festive and memorable.
When it comes to sparkling wine, I would be lying if I said I didn’t prefer Champagne, as in the authentic wine from France. Italy’s answer to Champagne is Franciacorta, the area in Lombardy in the north that was put on the map half a century ago by Guido Berlucchi. Today, Berlucchi’s Franchiacorta ’61 Rosé is a beautiful example of what the region produces (the ’61, which some might find a bit confusing, refers not to the vintage, but the year the Berlucchis started to make their sparkling wine).
Light salmon in color, this fresh and lively blend of chardonnay and pinot noir is dry yet fruity, with notes of cherry, strawberry and orange peel. It’s delicious on its own and will pair well with all kinds of appetizers. And, at about $23, the price is right.
For a hearty main course of meat, pasta or risotto, turn to Tuscany and consider Jacopo Biondi Santi’s 2010 “Braccale” Toscana. This blend of 80 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent merlot is notable for its concentrated, dark-berry fruit, including blackberry, blueberry and black cherry, as well as its smooth tannin structure, well-integrated oak and lively acidity. It’s a beautiful food wine from the family that pioneered Brunello di Montalcino. It's also a great value at about $16.
Valentine’s Day would not be complete, of course, without chocolate, and for a wine accompaniment, one of my top choices is Banfi’s “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui from Piedmont in northern Italy. Made from the brachetto grape, the current release is the 2012 and costs about $20. This lightly sparkling and lightly colored semi-sweet red wine remains the delicious after-dinner treat it has always been.
With raspberry, red cherry and floral notes, it is not cloyingly sweet, as some brachettos are. Alcohol is a typically low seven percent. As I taste it again in my mind, I can’t wait to pour myself another glass — with, of course, a piece of my wife’s famous dark chocolate cake.