The Best Wines for Valentine’s Day
Love or hate the holiday, it’s an excellent occasion for wine.
Turn on Barry White, sprinkle the rose petals, and get going on all those other romantic tropes: Valentine’s Day is here, lads. Or perhaps you’re in the camp that hates all this commercialized hullabaloo. Divisive as the day may be, both parties can agree that it’s an excellent occasion for wine.
While our favorite wines for the evening walk a rainbow of reds, whites, oranges, and bubbles, Troy Bowen, co-owner and sommelier at Noble Riot in Denver, makes a case for finishing your night off with a spark. “Make the end your beginning and crack open a bottle of Champagne,” he says.
“Most drinkers relegate Champagne to the social lubrication part of the evening — when everyone is trying to get comfortable and sniff out everyone else. But I love finishing a night with Champagne. It’s delicious, ridiculous, a little defiant and, best of all, leaves your mouth wanting more. Whether you stay at the table or head home and kiss on your love, your palate is primed for your next adventure.”
Effervescence aside, a bottle of wine can dictate the direction of your night. Do you want celebratory bubbles? A silky, sensual red? A baller bottle to show you care, or something to pair with the meal you’ve been mucking up the kitchen all day making? For all the above and more, sommeliers weigh in on the best bottles for the lovers (and haters).
For Requisite Bubbles: Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot NV
“Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot’s entry level bottling, the non-vintage Tradition, uses the three typical grapes of Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and their specialty, Pinot Meunier. Grapes are grown using organic and biodynamic principles and the resulting wines show zip, refreshment and a clear view of the land they come from. All this and usually under $60 retail.” – Troy Bowen, co-owner and sommelier at Noble Riot, $37
For the Flirty: Vivanterre Pet-Nat
“I love Vivanterre’s Pet Nat as a great option for V-Day. Like all their wines, it’s somehow both refined and approachable at the same time. Shoot, I’d even start and end the night with the bubbles (it has a hint of residual sugar, ensuring it will go with your chocolate covered strawberries) that then crack their Gamay with dinner!” – Holly Berrigan, co-owner of MYSA Natural Wine, $41
Pairs-With-Chocolate: Schmitt Rose
“Schmitt Rose is a really fun blend from Germany. It gives off romantic vibes both in the bottle and in the strawberry-rosemary flavor profiles. I love pairing this with the kinds of food I want to eat on Valentine’s day!” – Holly Berrigan, co-owner of MYSA Wines, $24.95
For Stripping Down: Marie Courtin Resonance
“Winemaker Dominique Moreau is a master of listening to the earth and crafting precise wines from what she’s given. It takes an immense amount of trust and discipline to make wine the way she does, harvesting by hand and using all naturally-occurring yeast. That discipline translates to the palate where her wines are bright, minerally and linear.” – Troy Bowen, Co-owner and sommelier at Noble Riot, $83
If Your Travel Plans are Slashed: Viñátigo Gual 2020
“Covid scrapped your romantic vacation plans? Ditto. So picture this: white sand beaches, towering volcanoes, verdant rolling hills, and cerulean seas. The Canary Islands’ Viñátigo does an incredible job of bottling the swagger of the Spanish isles — a vacation in the bottle so-to-speak.”
“Some of the vines here date back to the 15th century (because of its remote location, the island was largely spared from phylloxera) so expect rich, intensely mineral wines with big history. Like this rare Gual (re: Malvasia Fina): creamy, honeyed, and aromatic, with layers of jasmine, a hint of smoke, and a big bomb of salinity.” – Kate Dingwall, $29
For Booze-Free Butterflies: Null Wines Red
“My partner doesn’t drink and I, well, drink professionally. Which has never been a problem, but when special occasions come around, his non-alc sodas just don’t seem to fit the bill. There’s a lot of non-alcoholic wines out there, but none manage to retain the nuances of the real thing as well as Null. This slightly carbonic tempranillo and syrah is dealcoholized before bottling, but retains its juicy, grippy, and charged characteristics. Yummy, regardless of proof.” – Kate Dingwall, $37
For (Tasteful) Cheesiness: Love You Bunches, Stolpman Vineyards
“This wine sounds like a lot—carbonic Sangiovese from California? Weird! But it’s proven to be one of my favorite wines, time and time again. It’s fresh, pure, delicious with a slight effervescence and soft tannins. Zippy, fun, and anything-but-banal. The declaration of “Love you Bunches’ on the label is just the kind of romance I want. Cute, no? Serve it slightly chilled!” – Kate Dingwall, $25
Classic Romance Red: Gulfi Rossojbleo
“I love looking to Sicily for reds — because of the volcano that crowns the island, reds from the region tend to have a brooding power to them. Gulfi’s Nero d’Avola is an excellent example of the salty, gritty characteristics volcanic terroir creates, with minerality, juiciness and radiant acidity. It pairs really well with all those classic loved-up dishes of pastas, steaks, and the sort. And it’s affordable, so crack that second bottle, please.” – Kate Dingwall, $19
The Valentine’s Day Who?: Martin Texier Roussanne
“Martin is the son of one of my go-to producers Eric Texier. While he diverted from his father’s footsteps to build a successful career as a DJ, he’s now back in Rhone, reviving Northern Rhone traditions by following natural processes and working without sulphites. His Roussanne has become one of my recent favorites — medium-bodied, clean, and mineral-driven but flintier and fresher than traditional Roussanne expressions. It’s got the body to pair well with food, but you wouldn’t be remiss to rip through this on a Netflix binge.” – Kate Dingwall, $33
The Morning-After Mimosa: Freixenet
“I’m a firm advocate for always having bubbles in the fridge. I’m a good girl scout and am always prepared — who knows when the occasion for a spritz or a Champagne cocktail comes around? If you are indeed laying into Valentine’s Day Wine, Tuesday should certainly call for mimosas. Freixenet makes consistently reliable Penedes bubbles that are always ready to add effervescence to any number of bubbly drinks.” – Kate Dingwall, $13