Sexy, sultry, sensuous, luscious – ever wondered why these words are used to describe wine? Could it be that wine leads us down the road to romance? To desire? Wine certainly pairs with Valentine's Day. But does romance have to rule the day on Valentine's? What if this Hallmark holiday conjures up bitterness and resentment rather than romance? For the "singles" out there, it might be black and depressing. So I started wondering about how this day has become inextricably linked with romance.
Like so many other holidays, the true origin of why we celebrate Saint Valentine's Day is filled with historical conjecture. According to the History Channel website, one legend says third-century Roman Emperor Claudius II declared that his soldiers must remain unmarried, since bachelors made more loyal warriors. A priest under his rule, Valentine, finding this decree unromantic and unjust, defied Claudius and performed marriages anyway. Once Claudius found out, he sentenced Valentine to death, thus martyring the romantic priest for all eternity. The same legend says that Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter and wrote love letters to her, which he signed "From Your Valentine."
As for the timing of Valentine's Day, some speculate the Christian Church established the date to "Christianize" the celebrations of the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, occurring each year at the ides of February on the 15th. It all became official when Pope Gelacius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.
By the 18th century, Feb. 14 emerged as the day friends and lovers exchanged tokens of affection, especially notes. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, 1 billion valentines are bought each year, approximately 85 percent by women. Guess now we know who is keeping the romance torch alive.
These days, Valentine's wine lets you stoke the fires of passion, drown out loneliness, or just get drunk with friends. Ports are a special favorite of mine on cold, winter nights to liven up spirits among friends; sweeter sparkling wines almost always please the ladies; and big red wines get you there quicker when a speedy buzz is on the agenda. Whether to lubricate or drown emotions on this Valentine's Day, wine's the ticket.
Banfi Rosa RegaleBrachetto d'Acqui
In my opinion, Rosa Regale is the quintessential romantic wine and chicks seriously dig it – a sweet, rich dessert sparkler from the Piedmont region of Italy. Banfi produce the bubbles using the same Charmat method as Prosecco, Italy's other great bubbly, and the Brachetto grape. The wine has loads of history at Italian court. (See Banfi's website to learn more). Fragrant with flowers and red berries, Rosa Regale is soft on the tongue, tasting of ripe strawberries and raspberries. It sports a sexy finish that seemingly lasts forever. And it's sweet... not cloyingly sweet since it boasts some acidity to balance all that sugar. Also refreshingly low in alcohol. A sure bet paired with raspberry desserts or chocolate of any sort. $20. Sweetness: 6. 3.5 stars. Find where to buy Rosa Regale.
Cockburn 20 Year Tawny Port Apart from the juvenile laughter which arises when I see the spelling of this port (pronounced "CO burn"), it's all serious juice. Full-bodied, and dripping with sweet butterscotch and honey flavors. Truly delicious stuff and worth every penny. Keep in mind that port keeps pretty fresh for up to year after being opened, so it can be an investment in future evenings. $40. Sweetness: 9, 4 stars.