It’s a cliché that Valentine’s Day is a “manufactured” holiday and is just a ruse to force people to buy greeting cards, flowers and chocolates. This is not true, it was the spirits industry that colluded to create this romantic holiday, those others jumped on board later. Of course I am joking, but it does seem like we’ve moved far beyond “it’s the thought that counts” when it comes to Valentine expectations.I understand sometimes you need to save a little cash, but that does not mean you have to sacrifice sentiment. Below I’ve outlined fourteen wine suggestions that are each under $14 per bottle, in a broad range of styles to make your Valentine celebration something special without breaking your bank account.
Another V-day cliché is that you must have a wine to go with chocolate. You don’t. There is no rule! You might want a romantic wine to go with your romantic dinner, fish or steak or vegetarian, or maybe your amour doesn’t even like chocolate. This is where the thought does count, and finding out a little bit about what your Valentine loves will go a long way.
That being said, I know the perfect wine to pair with chocolate: Costarosa Sangue di Giuda by Giorgi. From a mixture of dry and sweet grapes, this lightly sparkling (called frizzante in Italian) red - yes, I said sparkling red - is one of our best-selling wines. It is faintly sweet, with no bitter tones, and plenty of lush blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors. It’s the perfect counterpoint to a dark chocolate mousse or even an assortment box of chocolates.
In the last year we came out with a white option, the Costarosa Bianco, a blend of moscato, malvasia and dry riesling. When we first featured it at our wine tastings, it was quickly dubbed “liquid gold” due to it’s golden hue, and pairs well with white chocolate desserts, pound cakes or fruity confections. Either wine is lovely on their own or with chocolate, and because of their relative low level of alcohol, they are light and elegant and keep the festivities going a long time.
Another easy go-to for Valentine’s Day is Champagne, but you will not find French Champagne under $14 a bottle anywhere. So we can look to a vast array of sparkling wines from around the world, each providing the same dramatic pop. Prosecco, from the Veneto in Italy, is still a very hot commodity due to its broad flavor appeal (fruitier than most French Champagnes) and competitive pricing (many under $15). Here are two options that are under $12 per bottle: Hi Prosecco and La Bella Prosecco. Both are extra dry, which is a little softer/sweeter than brut, but not sweet like moscato-based wines. The classic bellini is made using prosecco - a very romantic drink indeed.
If you want a drier, French-style sparkler, look to sparkling wines that are from other parts of France than Champagne, like the Alan Christopher Blanc de Blancs Brut. Crisp and citrusy, this is a wine to pair with raw oysters, as would a quality cava from Spain, like the Dominio de la Peseta.
“Rose’s are red,” but rosés are pink, and pink wines are still all the rage for any day of the year in Florida. Rosés are pink wines that are fruity up front, yet crisp and dry on the palate, and they pair with many more food options than blushing white zinfandel. Bleu de Mer Rosé, from Mediterranean France, and Domaine Vetriccie, from Mediterranean Corsica, are classic French rosés with wild strawberry and pomegranate aromas that explode in ripe fruit yet have plenty of acidity to keep them light and romantic. The Bleu de Mer has typical Provence rosé characteristics with more cherry tones, while the Vetriccie has a refreshing mineral bite, making it perfect to pair with charcuterie and fromages and romantic picnics on the beach.
If your sweetheart likes buttery whites then Prospector Chardonnay is your best choice under $14. With vanilla and butter flavors and soft acidity, it’s great to quaff before the date begins or paired with lobster bisque at dinner. For a lighter, less oaky California chardonnay try Hayes Ranch. With more apple flavors, this wine has hints of oak but offers a brighter, fruitier finish. If your sweetie likes a white with a little more acidity, try Sea Pearl Sauvignon Blanc. It’s from Marlborough, New Zealand, and has the typical kiwi grapefruit notes but also some tropical guava and classical gooseberry - making this a very balanced sauvy from a very romantic country. Bonus- the label is as pretty as a piece of fine jewelry.
Finally, we must consider our red wine loving romantics. If you like a soft, fruity red (which could also pair with milk chocolate or lighter desserts) that has a cheeky label, consider the sexy Playtime Red. The label is frivolous and fun, just like the wine.
If your loved one likes a more serious red than consider the Californian Encore Cabernet Sauvignon or the French Chateau Côtes de Bellevue, from Bordeaux, France. The Encore is velvety on the palate with ripe black currant fruit flavors and just a touch of American oak to give it backbone and length. The well-rated (91 from James Suckling) Côtes de Bellevue has more elegant Bordeaux restraint with a soft palate made to pair with nearly anything from roasted squab to down home barbecue.
To recap, remember that when it comes to Valentine’s Day, the thought most definitely counts. Do a little research to find out what your Valentine loves then look to this list to find something appropriate, affordable, and completely romantic. Most importantly, it is a celebration, so have fun and enjoy every minute.