Friday, 12 February 2016

Valentine's Day - your questions answered

Where did it all start?
Rather grimly, with the martyrdom of a man named Valentinius in around 270AD, just outside Rome. It seems he was beheaded on the orders of Claudius II for helping Christian couples to marry.

How did we get from martyrdom to hearts and flowers?
It’s possible that Chaucer, he of the Canterbury Tales, may have begun the tradition of celebrating love and lovers on St Valentine’s day. Certainly one of his poems, The Parliament of Fowls, includes these lines:

“For this was on seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make.”

Chaucer was obviously a lousy speller and his words can be “translated” thus:

“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day,
When all the birds of every kind that men can imagine come to choose their mates.”

How best to show your love?
You have options here.

The grand gesture. The grandest of the grand is probably the Taj Mahal. This fairytale palace is in fact a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favourite wife – a double-edged compliment if ever there was one. Not least because, by definition, the wife in question didn’t get to see the gesture. And the other wives must have been livid.

The slightly saucy. If you’re thinking underwear, I’d steer clear of anything too raunchy (or red), but remember the wise words of Dorothy Parker, “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”

The failsafe – something sparkling!

Pink Prosecco is an aberration in my book and most Cava Rosado is very basic – so rosé Champagne it is. It’s the classiest option and food and wine matching is simple: pink wine, pink food. Think salmon, lobster, prawns etc.

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Rosé - £15.99 from Aldi
A winning combination of strawberry fruit and digestive biscuit-y-ness at a bargain price.

Morisson’s M Signature Champagne Rosé NV - £20
This is quite deeply coloured and full flavoured thanks to the high proportion of Pinot Noir – more for food than aperitif.

Champagne Oudinot Brut Rosé NV - £28 from M&S
Ever reliable M&S stalwart at a very reasonable price.

Charles Mignon Premier Cru Brut Rosé NV - £35 from M&S
A step up in quality, this is a beguiling combination of purity of fruit with grown up elegance.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Rosé Brut NV – best price currently £43.99 from Waitrose and Amazon, but widely available
Pale, elegant pink in colour, with refinement and enjoyment in perfect balance.

Finally – the leftfield option.

Bouvet Rubis Demi-Sec - £11.99, or £9.99 as part of a mixed six bottles, Majestic
A proper red wine, but off-dry and with bubbles – it sounds so wrong, but I have to say I loved it. 

It has lovely sappy and fresh red cherryish fruit with a hint of pencil shaving and is very moreish. This would be great with a meaty main course.

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