Friday, 13 February 2015

Valentine's Day dilemmas

Once over the age of about sixteen, it seems, a handmade card will no longer suffice to show our devotion to the object of our affections. No, now it has come to mean handing over something along with the card – a gift seems to be in order.

What to get your Valentine?

Handbag? As my husband is doubtless painfully aware, even I can’t find the perfect handbag for myself, despite putting years (and pounds) into the search. What, seriously, are the chances of you doing it, just like that? However, if you are confident that this is where your strengths lie, go right ahead – and please, get in touch with me, as I would love to glean some of your handbaggy wisdom.

Underwear? Fraught with dangers, this. It must strike the right balance between sexiness, sluttiness and wearability. Get it wrong and you could be facing the cold shoulder. And if you get the size wrong (and there are so many ways it can be wrong) – well, all sorts of troubles await. Best avoided in my opinion.

Jewellery? Can be a good solution, but potentially spendy if you want to avoid anything too High Street.

Eat out? The most painfully, quietly strained atmosphere prevails across restaurants on the night of the 14th  February, as couples face each other across tables, over a variety of pink-themed plates of food, wondering why on earth they’re shelling out a small fortune for the privilege. I think you can see where I stand on this one.

Fancy box of chocs? Who doesn’t like to get a nice box of chocolates? This is a no brainer – tick.

Nice bottle of wine? Has to be the easy option doesn’t it? Any thoughts of Dry January are thankfully long past, it’s bound to be welcome, it can demonstrate your thoughtfulness - and you get to share it. Perfect, no?

This is always going to be a classy choice and you will never be short of options that transmit the message you’re trying to send.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV, around £36-£42, is something of a wine trade secret. This full-flavoured but elegant Champagne can see you through from aperitif to main course. What it says: “I’ve been around long enough to know what’s what. You’re in good hands.”

Gosset Grande Réserve, around £50 has delicacy but depth of flavour and is always delicious; a good choice if you’re heading out afterwards, or will be a delight with lighter, seafoody dishes. What it says: “I’m serious about having fun.”

There is one luxury Champagne cuvée that is practically made for Valentine’s Day – Perrier-Jouët Belle Eqpoque, with its Art Nouveau inspired decorative bottle. At £130 for the 2006 vintage from Waitrose it’s not something to knock back casually, but such a beautiful object is surely worth keeping as a reminder of your romantic largesse (no sniggering at the back), so it shouldn’t be consigned to the recycling bin within days either. What it says: “I’m a hopeless (and now skint) romantic.”

Pink fizz
Drinking pink for Valentine’s Day may not count as startlingly original. But then Valentine’s Day itself is nothing if not a cliché, so now is not the time to worry about making a well-worn wine choice. Just go with the flow.

Rosé Champagne, by any objective measure, cannot justify its premium price tag, as it is in most cases just the regular cuvée with a little red wine blended into it. However, objectivity be damned, Champagne says special occasion, ergo pink Champagne says it, with knobs on.

I’m a fan of Bollinger Grande Année Rosé – 2004 is the current vintage and you can expect to pay in excess of £85 for a bottle, but check out for the best deals. What it says: “Purrrrr.”

Jacquart Brut Mosaïque Rosé NV, usually £30 from Sainsbury’s but down to £25 for Valentine’s, is a canny choice: a pretty pink and good quality fizz made by a switched-on co-operative with a dynamic winemaker. What it says: “I know a good thing when I see it.”

Nyetimber Rosé NV, £45 from Waitrose and elsewhere, is one of English wine’s brightest stars. Any self-respecting English rose or red-blooded Englishman would be charmed by it. What it says: “Ding dong!” (in best Leslie Phillips voice).

San Leo Rosato NV, on offer at £6.99 at Waitrose, is a fun and frothy Italian that puts a smile on the face of the cash-strapped and lovestruck. What it says: “I’m cheap but cheerful.”

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