My wife tells me I waste too much time looking at the wine list when there is table conversation to be had. I wander into a wine shop “for a few minutes” and I am not seen again for hours.
My friends and I will debate vintage matters in arcane torrents of language that would make particle physicists seem like grade school teachers. It’s not that we’re conjuring anything important or lofty; it’s mostly empty pontificating. But wine can do that to an enthusiast.
But there are a few days each year when I have to promise to do better, when my tastes are not all that matters. What matters most on those days, and especially on Valentine’s Day? That you choose a wine that your valentine will like. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sweet wine, a light wine, a sparkling wine or Arbor Mist Strawberry Shortcake.
OK, maybe not that one. My point is, there are a million wines out there not because one of them is the best and the rest cascade downwards in a vast pyramid of also-rans, but because everyone’s taste is unique. Somewhere there is a wine for each of us, and for each moment we have, or so I like to think.
Most people like sugar in their wine. That may seem to fly in the face of reason, but it’s true. It’s also true that most people who drink wine don’t drink much in the way of sweet wine. Some say sweet wines are for fools.
If so, I am a fool. I love all manner of wines, including those that have some sweetness. But there I go again, worrying about what I like when it is my valentine who is the judge of what’s appropriate for the occasion.
Moscato in all its iterations (sparkling, still, labeled instead as Muscat) is wildly popular, and it’s almost always sweet. You could do worse than trust your luck to such a bottle.
Most Riesling has some sweetness to it, though there are increasingly lovely bottles that are labeled as “Dry Riesling” and some that are not labeled as such but are just as dry. If you’re willing to give great German Riesling a shot, look for one labeled as “Spätlese.”; a As long as it doesn’t always say “Trocken” (German for dry), you and yours will be fine.
Champagne is sweet, too, though that too seems to undermine its image of elegant sophistication. Nonetheless, venture a sip from last night’s forgotten glass of bubbly and now, stripped of its chill and devoid of its bubbles, it will reveal itself for the candied Pop Tart it so often is.
Sure, there are truly dry Champagnes, but those are unusual and generally not too popular. People like sweetness especially when they don’t know it’s there.
For my part, I’m choosing a Rosé Champagne, something from the French region that gives great sparkling wine its name (Champagne), and something that carries the official pink color of the day.
Moet et Chandon makes a delightful version, but so too do Nicolas Feuillatte, Billecart-Salmon, Laurent Perrier, Ruinart, Henri Billiot and many others.
There are less expensive but pleasurable options in Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir from California, Graham Beck Brut Rose from South Africa, Gruet Brut Rose from New Mexico, Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose from Alsace and Michelle Brut Rose from Washington state.
I can’t be sure which one your Valentine will like, but for my part, if one doesn’t work I’ll just try another.
Wine columnist Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based master sommelier and master of wine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.