Not long ago I was asked to recommend a cocktail to a friend. Without thinking about it much, I spotted a Clover Club — a mingling of gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white — on the cocktail list. When the pinkish red cocktail was handed to him, I received a look like I had just besmirched his manhood.
What is it about pink that says feminine? And why is the color emblematic of Valentine’s?
As with most Christianized holidays, a pagan ritual lies at the day’s foundation. Though we aren’t certain which St. Valentine owns the day (there are several beatified Valentines) the celebration was sufficient to draw a curtain over the fertility rites associated with Rome’s earlier Lupercalia. It seems that Chaucer exposed the ardor once more when he wrote that birds pick mid-February to mate, so why not people?
“I prik you with pleasance,” said Chaucer’s Nature.
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Pleasing mating rituals followed.
What gives that pleasance is individual, of course. But pink is in order. Pink wine needn’t be sweet; bottles as diverse as La Vieille Ferme Rosé ($10) from France’s Rhone Valley, and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13) from California have plenty of fruity exuberance, along with some tanginess, to end things happily.
Sparkling wine is so often the amorous choice of hopeful lovers. Why not add a glimpse of pink to your bubbles?
Poema Cava Rosado ($12) or Naveran Cava Rosado ($18), both from Spain, Bouvet Brut Rose ($15) from France and Charles Smith’s Secco Italian Bubbles Pinot Noir ($15) from Italy all glow with that sweet, fleshy color.
If you prefer a bit more sugar to your froth, then Elio Perrone Bigaro ($18) from Italy is a blend of Moscato and the red Brachetto grape.
Should pink seem too gaudy for sparkling wine, Jacquesson Cuvee 738 ($65) or Taittinger La Francaise ($50) from Champagne are pale, round and succulent as well. And France’s Loire Valley offers many sparklers beyond the well-known Bouvet mentioned above: Clos de la Briderie Cremant de Loire ($24) is a gentle, creamy delight.
Sweet gifts, fragrant flowers, chocolates and romantic evenings are demanded; those may be our modern fertility rites. Yet wine’s transformative abilities serve a purpose too: Grgich Hills Chardonnay ($38) from Napa, Scarpetta Pinot Grigio ($16) from Italy, or Zilliken Butterfly Riesling ($22) from Germany have each graced my table of late.
I’ve collected a few reds that may get popped soon: Duckhorn Merlot ($50) from Napa, Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 ($70, for those who equate money and sex) from the Rhone Valley, Tommasi Rompicollo 2012 ($17, a dandy red from Tuscany) or Bedrock Shebang Cuvée IX ($14) from California.
But I’ll admit to a preference for a softer, gentler side of red wine, especially Pinot Noir.
Siduri’s Willamette Pinot Noir 2013 ($23) from Oregon or Calera’s Central Coast Pinot Noir 2013 ($28) from California might be more likely to please my wife. We shall see.
These wines aren’t pink but they’re pale in color; still, I don’t mind something pink in my glass. Like that Clover Club cocktail, which was delicious. Since my friend set it down and walked away, I greedily finished it for him. I like pink.
Wine columnist Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based master sommelier and master of wine. Email him at email@example.com.