On Valentine's Day, when glasses clink, thoughts float to romance. A sexy-colored liquid whispers sweet somethings to lovers gazing over brimming goblets, priming them for whatever might arise. It's no wonder wine flies off the shelves during February.
And sparkling wine only amplifies the emotions. It makes us giddy with youthful energy; causes us to say sappy things and (sometimes) mean them; magnifies amorous feelings; and makes everything taste that much better. It's pretty amazing how a thoughtfully chosen bottle of bubbly can increase the pleasure of a simple Valentine's meal tenfold, whether ten or ten thousand dollars. Remember that on holidays ordained for romantic expression, it really is the thought that counts.
For many people, rosé Champagne is the quintessential Valentine's Day offering, enticing for its tiny stars floating to the top, soft color, and rarity. To attain the famous pink color, a small amount of pinot noir wine is added at the blending stage after the first fermentation. Because it's scarce, rosés are pricier than most sparklers. If the "thought" is what you're going for, plenty of white and rosé sparklers are available at reasonable prices, especially those from outside of France's Champagne region. Look for "Cava" (Spain), "Prosecco" (Italy), "Cremant" (France, outside of Champagne), and "Spumante" (sweet from Italy) -- all words for sparkling wine in other countries. Another note: a vintage-dated sparkling wine is not necessarily better than nonvintage. If it has no date listed on the bottle, it only means the winemaker blended wines from two or more years to produce an often more complex wine.
If your sweetie likes it sweet, look for labels listing "Extra Dry," a wine that is, ironically enough, sweeter than the drier Brut. "Demi Sec" (translation: half dry) is the sparkler that drinks like dessert.
But why wine's romantic reputation? There are plenty of theories, but one is that society crafted it so. Wine descriptors are rife with tactile romantic adjectives like silky, smooth, and velvety, and winemakers are treated as artists since they pour their heart and soul into each bottle. No other edible item reflects its producer's personality as much as a bottle of wine. But perhaps wine has earned its romantic reputation based on what it delivers: That ultra-relaxed, open-to-anything feeling -- like falling in love.
So whether you're creating a meal for that special someone, or treating him/her to a night on the town, remember it's not the price that counts, it's the love in the bottle (or in the couple).