I sometimes think we’re led by what supermarkets think we ought to drink, rather than by what we actually fancy. For Valentine’s Day, for example, that more often than not means anything pink and preferably fizzy, champagne being the obvious choice. But is that what you or your loved one really wants?
Recent research shows that consumers regard red wine as the most relaxing drink, but despite red being as legitimate a Valentine’s colour as pink, red is rarely seen as a romantic choice, with the exception of rather half-hearted injunctions to buy Saint-Amour, one of the least interesting of the Beaujolais crus.
What I’m looking for – and, I guess, you may be, too – is a lush red that’s smooth and sexy enough to drink on its own without being dependent on food to show it off. And they’re not necessarily expensive, either. In its February Wine Festival, Aldi has an absolutely cracking malbec called Quisco (£6.99; 13.5%) – unusually, this one’s from Chile rather than Argentina – though I admit the label isn’t particularly romantic. You could always decant it and pretend it’s a pomerol. (Yes, I know that’s merlot rather than malbec, but you might – just – get away with it.)
Tandem Inmune Garnacha 2016 (six bottles for £71.70 strictlywine.co.uk, £71.94 corkingwines.co.uk; 14%), from Navarra, would also be a good bet for a romantic night in. This gorgeous, lush, ripe red has an apt romantic association (bicycle for two – geddit?) and a good price.
If you’re looking to impress, Saint-Émilion should do the trick, though the so-called “satellite” villages surrounding the appellation are generally better value than Saint-Émilion itself. Dourthe does an attractive, supple Montagne Saint-Émilion 2015 (£11.99 Waitrose; 13.5%), which was an excellent vintage; or head farther afield for the voluptuous Los Vascos Grande Reserve 2014 (£14.95 slurp.co.uk, £15.95 Lea & Sandeman ; 14%), from the Colchagua Valley, combining a prestigious name (Domaines Barons de Rothschild – aka Lafite) with Chile’s gloriously intense fruit.
I’ve also fallen in love with Our Fathers Barossa Shiraz 2015 (14.5%). Big Aussie reds aren’t normally my bag, but this one has so much elegance and finesse, it’s an absolute joy to drink. At £25 direct from ourfatherswines.co.uk, the minimum order is a case of six, but all proceeds go to charity. The wine was originally made in memory of owner Giles Cooke’s father, which maybe makes it more suitable for Father’s Day than Valentine’s, but why not save a bottle or two for that, too?
£6.99 Aldi, 13.5%
Smooth, lush Chilean malbec at a terrific price.
£11.95 strictlywine.co.uk, 14%.
A big, luscious red from Rioja’s next-door neighbour.
2014 £15.95 Lea & Sandeman, £17.32 Ocado, 14%.
Chile’s impressive answer to bordeaux, made by the Bordelais.
£25 ourfatherswines.co.uk, 14.5%.
Beautifully crafted Aussie shiraz, and the cost goes to a good cause.