Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Great (and grape) expectations

Love is the greatest refreshment in life” ~ Pablo Picasso

Love, a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart, which weakens the brain, causes eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker.”  Anon. Is this love, or is this alcohol?

We were wondering if we could get away without mentioning the V word, as THAT DAY is fast approaching and setting hearts aflutter and stress levels soaring. No chance! The much hyped Valentines day, when anyone who does not receive a card, a bunch of flowers or a teddy emblazoned with those unimaginative, mystical, but so powerful three words, feels like they must be an unlovely freak of nature.

If this is you – just relax, you are beautiful and you deserve to celebrate yourself with a glass or several of whatever tipple takes your fancy, and don’t worry, we will be suggesting a few. Just think, you will be smugly happy whilst so many poor pairs are perspiring over a pricey dinner in pseudo pressured passion and will possibly be rueing the commercialization of what was once regarded as a day of secret trysts.

How did Valentine’s Day originate? Firstly, the timing co-incides with the ancient pagan festival of Lupercalia, celebrating the start of spring and fertility. Saint Valentine himself was said to be a priest in Roman times: he was killed and gained martyr status, because of his illicit practice of marrying couples to prevent the young men being conscripted into the army....not really very romantic.

In 1929 during the era of alcohol prohibition in America, bootleggers and profiteer mobsters such as Al Capone thrived with their strong arm, bloody and lawless tactics. (Let this be a dire warning to keep the wine flowing!) The “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” is also relevant if you eat the typical gift of chocolate and champagne together. If you want to match your chocolates with wine HD declares there is really only one choice, PX Sherry. Intensely sweet grapes left to raisin, then fermented, fortified and aged for years to produce the stickiest, smooth and nutty liquid. You could also use it to make a sensuous treat of a pudding – pour it over the best quality vanilla ice cream, add a few raisins if you feel like it. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference PX is just £6.99.

What I do and what I dream include thee, as the wine must taste of its’ own grapes”. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The Saatchi Gallery in London was transformed this week as all the priceless pictures were removed from the walls and thousands of litres of wine from around the world brought in. A different type of culture indeed. This was “open day” on a grand scale and mobbed by the cognoscenti and ignorati alike! Amongst the madness we made sure that on your behalf we sampled a few bottles – some of them pink – to make recommendations for your delectation on said14th, whether for sole use or à deux, (or more). As it is a celebration and a not very serious one at that, we felt that bubbles were appropriate. So we tasted from the sublime to the ridiculous. Our “afternoon delight” was Laurent-Perrier Grande Siècle Brut, and the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, followed up with Krug Grande Cuvée, all of which we sipped, savoured and didn’t spit! These “mistress tipples” (much enjoyed by Madame Pompadour, the celebrated, enterprising and long-time mistress to King Louis XV), range in price from £90 to £180, not everyday drinking for most.

Good value at a fraction of this cost is Sainsbury’s award-winning Blanc de Noirs Brut NV at just £16.98 a bottle. However, if that you feel that flashing a supermarket label just won’t do, then Majestic’s offer on classy Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV could be just the job. It costs £24.99 if you buy two or more bottles.

Your words are my food, your breath my wine” ~ Sarah Bernhardt

Aphrodisiacs come in many forms and classically oysters with champagne are renowned for their sensual heightening properties. However, there are many other foods that claim to be libido boosting, such as the Avocado, which in Aztec language was known as the “testicle tree”.....note the shape. Ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, saffron and chilli (curry anyone?) also lay claim to have a heating effect on parts not reached by the likes of fish and chips or shepherds pie.

We suggest that to go with your curry you should forego the usual lager, and try a softly structured and fruity red such as Beaujolais-Villages Hospice de Beaujeu 2007/8 from Waitrose at £7.99: a non obvious but nevertheless great match. Or for something a little more conventional an off-dry German Riesling Pfalz 2007 by Bassermann-Jordan, also from Waitrose, at £8.99 would be really simpatico.

You could of course stick to Champagne which famously goes with anything, though perhaps this has more to do with its ability to convey celebration and a sense of occasion, rather than any innate food matching quality. However, at the risk of overstatement, a well chosen glass of wine swirled and sniffed appreciatively, left to linger on the tongue, then allowed to glide gratefully down your throat hits the spot, and the pheromones.

Other than the above our advice would be simply to avoid arguments.
We are probably all romantics at heart so enjoy this day and whatever you believe love to be, and drink an un-cynical toast to - love makes the world go round.....

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”
The Beatles ~ Abbey Road.

With love

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