The Romance of Wine


by Tom Geoghegan

WWe just keep ticking off the Holidays, coast a little bit, and there it is….looming…Valentine’s week. And as we quickly panic in terms of how to show our appreciation and affection for that special person, can I offer a few suggestions? There is something very intimate and personal in a shared experience that transcends the flowers and cards we always seem to fall back on.

Some of my richest ongoing memories revolve around that special person in my life in the unique context of shared places, meals, and of course wine. From the location of our first date (Little Italy) as I fumbled with the wine list (why is your first and second choice always out of stock?) to all the wines we have shared over the years, there is a rich history to draw from and to say thank you again for being my life.

You can start simple, or for those in long-term relationships, make it a fun hunt for that special significant bottle or vintage. The Internet is really a beautiful thing in terms of tracking down that hard to find bottle or vintage, and with UPS, it really is a shrinking world when it can be delivered to your front door. Start with your local wine shop, and enlist their help in locating these special wines. Lastly, a reminder that in our busy world, it really is Valentine’s week, not day. That gives us from roughly 2/10 till 2/16 to make reservations (highly, highly recommended for the busiest week of the year for most restaurants), and or locate that special bottle. Gentlemen….do not forget this holiday!

Champagne is probably one of the most romantic symbols of affection out there. The smile that comes from the right bottle is worth all the effort in terms of all the research you did to get the right selection. The process is pretty straight forward… a series of simple questions. “What type of bubbly do you really enjoy…sweet or dry…maybe a rosé”….“What’s the name of that favorite champagne of yours again”.… you get the basic idea. Now that you’re armed with the basic information for their individual style, it’s just a matter of locating or ordering the bottle that fits your budget. A few suggestions. Look for some Aussie sparkling Shiraz’s, better Asti’s (the old Asti Spumante), Sekt (German for sweet), and in the French vein, the designation is going to read Demi-sec for the sweeter styles. Some other proprietary designations are descriptors like Nectar, among others. Brachetto is a sweeter style red sparkling from Italy to also be aware of.

In the drier styles the progression runs from Extra Dry (with just a hint of dryness) to Brut (generally the driest). Proseccos from Italy and the better Cavas from Spain, along with the hybrids from California, plus the original sparkling houses from California offer a tremendous range of styles and price points. Don’t forget to look at the Rose styles for an added romantic touch…nothing more elegant looking than a glass of Rose Champagne. And if all else fails and you run out of time, just pull a bottle from your left over stash for Super Bowl XLVIII. Your favorite wine guy/gal can definitely make the process easier, especially when you have the outline of your taste and style parameters ready to go. One of the more useful wine accessories is a Champagne stopper. What a wonderful way to extend the life of that special bottle, and use those last few glasses for Mimosas that weekend. Lastly, a special touch for the married group is to buy the wine you served at your wedding (or wanted to), and have the bottle engraved with the particulars for first names, dates, location, etc. There are a few shops locally that do this…send me a quick note if you would like more details, etc.

Nothing says you care like a hand selected bottle that reflects a special time, place, or meal. The same research you did with champagnes can also pay huge dividends…ask the right questions and all the hard work is done. Most of us are fairly vocal in terms of our favorite varietal and growing region, so it’s pretty easy to proceed from there. Your creativity is the only limiting factor, with way too many choices out there with wines from all over the world, including our homegrown Texas wines. The spirit of discovery is alive and well in the world of wine. Feel free to branch out from the traditional Cabs and Chards. Check out some of the up and coming varietals (Viognier, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Moscato, etc.) and styles (red and white field blends are very hot right now). And your favorite search engine is a powerful tool in terms of key words and wine. Searching for my niece Haley, turned up “Haley’s Mill” wine, which pleasantly turned out to be a decent everyday drinker. Another example is the “Amelia” Chardonnay from Palmaz vineyards (named for his wife, who coincidently loves chardonnay) is concrete proof of the old adage…”Happy wife…happy life.” The ideas and wines are practically unlimited for a special gift.

For this colder time of year, the perfect “and now for something completely different.” A fortified wine, it perfect for those toasty evenings fireside after a special meal. As we have indicated, the progression is from Ruby (simple, straightforward, and sweeter) thru to the Tawny’s (more complex, multi layers of flavor, and drier). Then on to vintage (only in “declared” years and expensive) and the LBV’s (late bottled vintage) which offer you vintage dating for considerably less. How many can look at a special year in our life without thinking of all the related memoires … a wedding day, first child, dream home, anniversary…you get the idea. A small glass is usually enough to sip and savor (remember fortified), and the left-over portion has a much longer shelf life than wine after being opened.

If we take all of the above we have the foundation for a little different twist on a wine tasting event for Valentine’s. Assembling a few of hers (or his) favorite wines can make for a fun, educational, and romantic evening. Compiling a few of their favorite red, white, and sparkling wines and conducting a tasting is the best of your favorites restaurants or wine bars BTG (By The Glass) program, but created just for you, and conducted in the warmth of your home. Enough glassware is usually all you need, possibly a sheet for tasting notes as a thought.

Hopefully this provides us with some ideas to make Valentine’s week a memorable one, and remind that special person in our lives just how important they are. By proving that we really do listen, we have that opportunity to carry those thoughts all through this year. An a average bottle of wine yields just glasses to drink, but that special bottle, shared with that person that is our life, yields memories for a lifetime.