|Champagne Tasting Report|
Last year, we surveyed sommeliers from coast to coast, asking them what wines they would recommend for a romantic Valentine's Day. This year, we decided to turn the heat up a notch.
We were inspired in this exercise by Wine Spectator's own Matt Kramer, who at the 2001 New York Wine Experience pointed out that wine is often used as an instrument of seduction. It is, however, important to employ the correct wine. "I mean, you're not going to get lucky off Zinfandel," Kramer quipped.
The nation's sommeliers would appear to agree. "Without a doubt, I would recommend Château d'Yquem," said the ever-dapper Larry Stone of San Francisco's Rubicon, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 1998. Why does the legendary Sauternes, a sweet wine from Bordeaux usually served with dessert, appeal to him?
"It ends the meal on just the right note, leading you directly from the table to the boudoir. Look for an unusual, unknown vintage, such as 1950 [93 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale]. If you can't find that, '67  or '75  are also great."
Stone endorsed a Champagne strategy as well. But not just any Champagne: "Krug," he said without hesitation. "The '86 Clos du Mesnil . So decadently complex, so rich. It keeps getting more and more complex as the date goes on. And it shows the other person that you care a lot about them." Wine Spectator's Champagne specialist, senior editor Bruce Sanderson, confirmed that judgment when he wrote that this blanc du blancs bubbly would "stop you in your tracks."
Finally, Stone suggested a classic red Burgundy, such as the 1997 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche. "Burgundies are so soft, they melt on the tongue. They can smell and taste of truffles, spices -- better than the rarest perfume."
Stone isn't the only sommelier who keeps a list of sexy wines in his head. Bruno Marini of Boston's The Federalist (Grand Award, 2001), has always equated wine with romance. "It adds to the elegance and sexiness of an evening," he maintained.
Marini's Valentine's choices are far from smutty -- about as far as you can get, in fact -- but they're all about establishing a enticing mood.
"This year, we're recommending the 1990 Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Rosé Cristal. That's a great wine to begin a meal with. It just breeds sex."
He moved on: "The '98 Sine Qua Non 'Against the Wall' [92, $47 on release] is luscious, a deep red cherry color. And to finish up, the '69 Château d'Yquem ." He paused to chuckle. "We love that wine because it has such long, sexy legs. It can last forever."
Some sommeliers are making no bones about their Valentine's recommendations. "We're going for rich, in-your-mouth, lip-smacking, succulent love," said Richard Betts of Montagna, at the Little Nell resort in Aspen, Colo.
"Thick" and "compelling" is how Betts described the 1995 Greenock Creek Roenfeldt Road, a micro-cuvée red from Australia that he'll be suggesting to canoodling diners this year. "It has such a seductive viscosity."
He's also big on the northern Rhône. "A sexy but savage wine is the '97 Bernard Burgaud Côte-Rôtie [92, $38]. It has great aromatics, floral aromas, but it's also animal, with game elements. A very heady wine."
Betts is also a fan of Burgundy's aphrodisiac effects. "You just fall in love with the narcotic aromas of something like a '97 Domaine Laurent Charmes-Chambertin [94, $120]."
And you fall in love with these sommeliers, each of whom proves that wine, already bottled poetry, might be bottled ... something else. If you can't get lucky off one of these bottles, maybe you should quit trying.
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