Wines for the Anti-Valentine
Valentine’s Day can be a polarizing occasion. Many individuals, betrothed and unattached alike, harbor a disdain for what they see as an overly commercialized, sappy “holiday.” There is even an alternative name for Valentine’s Day: Singles Awareness Day (SAD). But cynicism can be a worthy cause for drinking and in that spirit, we have hand-picked a selection of wines that are enjoyable enough to substitute romance and fancy enough to make you feel indulgent (many are great accompaniments to your favorite takeout foods). Whatever your feelings about the impending holiday, there is something on this list for you.
If you’re feeling bereft and need to slam a BBQ pork sandwich and lament life try Forlorn Hope Mataro. Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope loves underdogs and the lost causes. He celebrates the struggle. His quixotic quest to explore obscure varietals and unknown appellations produces unique, esoteric wines. Drinking any one of them would be a great celebration of the impossible quest for love. The Mataro (Spanish for Mourvèdre) is the perfect accompaniment to that sopressata sub or that dry rub BBQ that you’re enjoying by yourself over the kitchen sink. It smells and tastes of raspberry jam without being sweet. It has a perfumed nose of dried wildflowers and medium plus body, tannins, and acidity. The palate tastes of Indian spices and cola with deep umami flavors of dry aged beef and soy.
If you’re feeling hopeful and want something special on hand try Clos Saron Out of the Blue. If the John Lennon song of the same title is at all based in reality you too can be struck by romance “out of the blue.” If it doesn’t happen in time for this Valentine’s Day, this is an age-worthy wine that would be well worth saving for the moment true love strikes, if you can stand waiting to drink it. Clos Saron is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Winemaker Gideon Beinstock farms grapes organically, uses ambient yeasts, does not fine or filter, and adds minimal sulfur at bottling. He prefers the term “minimalist” to “natural,” some knowledge you can impress your future boo with. The spiced floral nose leads to a wine with bright red fruit, structure and acidity. This is the last vintage of this Cinsault blend; be sure to savor every last drop.
If you’re feeling jealous and need to indulge, try Adega Familiar Eladio Piñeiro Envidiacochina Tête de Cuvee Albariño. This Albarino from Rias Baixas (southwestern coast of Galacia in Spain) is named for “the filthy worm of envy.” This lively wine is bright and citrusy, brimming with salinity. It has medium body, high acidity, and coats your mouth with a chalky minerality. It would be great with a fish sandwich or some supermarket sushi. It’s everyone else who should be jealous that they aren’t drinking this wine with you.
If you need a good cry try Pheasant’s Tears Saperavi. The name “Pheasant’s Tears” refers to Georgian folklore in which a wine is so good that it makes a pheasant cry. Whether you spend Valentine’s Day crying over the beauty of this wine, the state of politics, or another year of being single, it is sure to be a unique gustatory experience. Pheasant’s Tears grapes are farmed organically and the wines are all fermented using the traditional Georgian qvevri, a clay amphora lined with beeswax and placed in the ground. All wines are made using indigenous yeasts and include the stems in the fermentation process. The Saperavi varietal is so dark that it is called “black” (like your heart) in Georgian. This wine is bold enough to fortify you in the wake of heartache. It is dry and earthy with notes of black currants and almonds. Firm tannins give the wine an elegant structure and a grippy finish.
If love is literally out of sight try Causse Marines Les Greilles. Les Greilles Gaillac is a blend of Mauzac, Muscadelle, and Loin-de-l’Oeil, all traditional varietals from Gaillac in Southwestern France. Virginie Maignien and Patrice Lescarret of Causse Marines are committed to exploring the unique heritage varietals of Gaillac in Southwest France. They farm using organic practices and no additives in the cellar. Loin-de-l’Oeil (also referred to as Len de L’El) means “far from the eye,” just like love for some on Valentine’s Day. It produces fuller bodied, fruity, low acid whites which makes this a great pairing for spicy fare such as Thai, Malaysian, or Indian food, all great options for a night of self-pity. The Mauzac and Muscadelle give the wine buoyancy and a subtle acidity. There are aromas of ripe apples and pears on the nose, which leads into a rich and smooth white with touches of melon, apple, minerality, and creaminess and a slightly tart finish.
If you’re feeling agitated, by unrequited love or by all of the lemmings buying Russell Stover chocolates, try Zelige-Caravant Un Poco Agitato. This wine is made from Chasan, the love child of Chardonnay and Listan born at the University of Montpellier in 1958. This white grape has been fermented on its skins like a red wine, thereby making it an orange wine (no oranges were harmed in the making of this wine). The winemaking couple (don’t be jealous) is located in the Languedoc and their vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic.