Whether you’re single and searching or cozily coupled and looking for something to spice up Valentine’s month (why dedicate only a day to love?), here are some of my favorite red wines, guaranteed to get your blood flowing and your cheeks flushing.

Drink them alone, or with rare steaks, salumi, or waxy grana cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino. 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Girard” Usseglio  2007

The classic Rhone blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah smells so richly of ripe blackberries and mulberries you can almost imagine stained lips and fingertips. Look for notes of licorice and dried tobacco leaves. This is a meaty, manly wine all dressed up in red.

Mercurey Rouge Vieilles Vignes, Tupinier-Bautista  2007

Old vine Burgundy from the southern part of the region, this is a deeper, plumier style Burgundy with layers of baking spices and a stony mineral note.

Feudi Otranto Aglianico Le Maschere 2006

An earthy, peppery wine from the southwestern region of Campagnia Italy. Designed to temper spicy seafood dishes, it’s juicy and very fruity forward and tinged with dried violet notes.

Terre Rouge Syrah “DTR Ranch Estate”, Sierra Foothills

This is an Artisan-style Syrah with a small percentage of Viognier from Terre Rouge Winery in the Sierra Foothills of California. Small plots and organic cultivation really bring out the flavor of the rocky soil. Dense and complex, this Syrah is savory and fruitful and practically begs to accompany a spiced lamb dish.

If you can get your hands on a 2005 Barbera d’Alba, prepare for a mouthful of ripe black cherries and sweet cinnamon. Terre da Vino is one of my favorite labels.

For your Kosher Valentine, try Ramon Cardova Rioja Tempranillo. Bold, saucy and spicy – Banderas in a bottle.

Vignamaggio  Castello di Mona Lisa Chianti Classico 2003 is produced on high altitude vineyards surrounding the villa where the legendary Mona Lisa herself posed for her portrait. Spicy, leathery and crisp, this is no casual Chianti.

Wine and Chocolate

Red wine and chocolate make an alluring combination, but to really bring out the best in both, it’s advisable to keep them apart. A better companion to dark chocolate is a red dessert wine like tawny port, late harvest Aleatico or Zinfandel.  The sweet cherry and berry flavors counter the bitterness and act as a cushion to intense cacao flavors. Creamy milk chocolate confections melt in your mouth like a dream when enjoyed with bright, white dessert wines with their aromas of dried apricots and ripe citrus. Try Italian Passito di Pantelleria or an Ice Wine from our neighbors to the North.

Pretty and pink.

Pink Champagne gets a terrible reputation, but the truth is it’s not so different from the white original. Some of the best Champagne cuvées are made with Pinot Noir. A rosé simply means they’ve left the skin on the red grapes for a little while longer than usual for a touch of color and a berry-filled bouquet. If you like the idea of strawberry shortcake (don’t forget the whipped cream), a sparkling Pinot Noir rosé ought to combine the toasty notes of fresh cake and the delightful aromas of creamy strawberry.

Try these subtle pink sparklers out on a date or in with your mate:

René Geoffroy “Rosé de Saignée” Brut Champagne – NV

Look for notes of rose petals and spices along with the characteristic strawberry and raspberry aromas.

André Clouet Brut Rosé – NV

Delicate and joyful, this is summer in a bottle. Spry and lean, it has a creamy mousse on top to round things out a bit.

Georges Gardet Rosé Brut – NV

A deeper, earthier style of Rosé Champagne, this one is all spice and cherries and can hold its own at the dinner table.

You’ll always make an impression with Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé. The 2002 vintage is spicy, smoky, and extremely elegant. The bottle itself is a work of art, and the complexity of the aromas will give you plenty to talk about.

There’s plenty more outside of Champagne, and even outside of France for that matter.

The Oltrepo Pavese region in northern Italy produces a sparkling Pinot Noir in Champagne style but with a younger feel.  Try Cantina di Casteggio Postumio. It’s like a ripe strawberry on a spring afternoon; luscious yet delicate.  Spanish Cava is another way to get bubbly. Palau Cava Rosado Brut Penedes NV is made from Trepat grapes,  a relative of red, spicy Garnacha, and has a luscious raspberry aroma and a lingering tingle of tannins on the palate.

Annie Shapero is the Founder/CEO of DiVino wine events planning and wine consulting, currently operating in New York City.
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