Victoria Moore: Valentine's Day wines to suit every taste and budget

Bottle of wine lying in flowers
Whatever your menu, taste or budget, Victoria Moore has suggestions to suit – from luscious reds to seductive rosés, you won’t go wrong with one (or two) of these...  Credit: Haarala Hamilton & Valerie Berry

Are you a Valentine refusenik? Or do you spring out of bed every February 14 to fill the fridge with pink champagne, stuff every vase in the house with red roses and fold all the towels into a pair of loved-up origami-style swans that you place on the bed amid a scattering of rose petals? OK, probably no one does that last bit. I have thought carefully about Valentine scenarios and have drinking suggestions that I hope will appeal. Love and light and all that jazz.

Best reds for good steak

I bet even more steak than lobster gets eaten on Valentine’s Day. For a big, rich, inky blood transfusion of a red then Jim Barry The Lodge Shiraz 2014, Australia (selected Co-op stores, £9.99) is a good option. It’s aged in French and American oak and is concentrated and dense, with black fruit flavours and spice.

Château Beaumont 2014 Haut Médoc and Jim Barry The Lodge Shiraz 2014

For a more classic claret, how about Château Beaumont 2014 Haut Médoc, France (selected Co-op stores, £13.99)? Made from 53 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 47 per cent merlot, it’s a beautifully shaped wine that reeks of Bordeaux’s left bank. Buy two and put one under the stairs for another year, as this will age well, too.

You’re cooking lobster

The absolute classic here would be a white burgundy, and if you have a bottle of Carillon (or something equally delicious) under the stairs or in your wine fridge then do go ahead and pull it out. And invite me around too. If you’re looking to buy a bottle then M&S has an inexpensive (for burgundy) bottle that punches above its weight: Florent Rouve Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes 2014 (Marks & Spencer, £14.50). 

Florent Rouve Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes 2014 and Koha Reserve 2015, Hawkes Bay

Viré-Clessé is in the Mâconnais, in the south of Burgundy, but this is a chardonnay with some of the honeycomb richness and nuttiness of a meursault. It comes from Domaine Rijckaert, which also has holdings in the Jura. Aged in old (four to six-year-old) oak barrels, it has lovely atmosphere too. For a wine that is lighter and more luminous, look to a peachy chardonnay from New Zealand. Koha Reserve 2015, Hawkes Bay (Marks & Spencer, £13) tastes of white peaches and lemon curd and is absolutely gorgeous. I’d drink it with crab toast or prawn cocktail, too.

Valentine refuseniks

A good Indian takeaway is a worthy default on all tricky occasions (as well as being the thing I most love to eat for dinner on the first day back from holiday). On V Day it’s a treat but not a statement of goo. Plus, it gives both parties a break from the cooking. Open a bottle of lager or make a couple of stiff G&Ts. If you’ve got a copy of my book, How to Drink, sitting on the kitchen shelf, then I’m presuming you know the G&T drill as nearly everyone I meet who has the book talks to me about it.

Martin Miller’s Gin 

In case not, a good G&T requires you to have small cans of tonic (they are more fizzy than plastic bottles), a fresh lemon (and not half an old lemon that has been sitting in the fridge) and at least four good-sized ice cubes. At the moment the gin I am drinking is the excellent Martin Miller’s Gin (Sainsbury’s, £26; Telegraph Wine from Waitrose, £26.50; also available at Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Wine Rack).

The last-minute

Valentine I won’t bother doing anything for Valentine’s Day. I won’t – wait! It’s the February 14 today. Perhaps I will just pop to the shop... Please don’t end up with the vinous equivalent of a scraggy bunch of carnations from the petrol station. Oddbins offers a same-day delivery service, Monday to Friday, in central areas of the following cities: London, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Champagne Collard-Picard Cuvee Prestige Brut and Yabby Lake chardonnay

The delivery charge is £25 and orders need to be phoned in. If you spend £75 or more, then swig.co.uk offers free same evening (6pm-10pm) delivery in London within the M25, and next day to the rest of Britain. I would be eyeing up the Champagne Collard-Picard Cuvee Prestige Brut, France (£39), and throwing in a bottle or two of Yabby Lake chardonnay (£35). Amazon has a fair bit of wine available on its Prime delivery service too.

The Brexit Valentine

The English wine industry is fizzing. Sales increased to £100 million in 2016, and producers are predicting that by 2020 production will have almost doubled to 10 million bottles a year as more vineyards in the southern counties, especially Kent and Sussex, come on stream. About two thirds of English wine is sparkling. That’s the stuff we do best and certain English sparkling wines have humiliated the French on more than one occasion by beating champagne in blind tasting competitions.

 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée NV

As the Duchess of Cornwall, who is president of the UK Vineyards Association, said recently, “We’ve got to keep going and give all the other countries a run for their money.” If you are a Brexiteer it is your duty to drink as much of this as possible. A good place to start is with a bottle of Nyetimber. Its vineyards are in Hampshire and Sussex, and the wine is creamy, assured and sophisticated. Try Nyetimber Classic Cuvée NV (Berry Bros & Rudd, £31.95; Majestic, £36.99 or £32.99 from Telegraph Wine From Waitrose).

The wine with a story

Over 20 years ago Katie Jones, who is originally from Leicestershire, arrived in a remote corner of the Languedoc to work in sales and marketing at the local Mont Tauch wine cooperative. “My parents drove me down, and as the road got longer and longer and smaller and smaller I could see my mum thinking, 'What are you doing?’ but as soon as I got there I loved it.” Katie started buying vineyards of her own in 2008.

Me & Monsieur Jones 2015

She has for some time made her own (very good) wine – but now she has released the first made in partnership with the French winemaker she recently married. Me & Monsieur Jones 2015, France (Naked Wines, £15.99) is a figgy, spicy blend of grenache and carignan, that uses grapes from his vineyard as well as from hers.

The budget Valentine

Cheap isn’t the same as cheapskate. MontGras Reserva Carmenère 2015, Chile (Telegraph Wine from Waitrose, £8.99 down to £6.74 until February 21) is a great big red, with a flare of heat, that’s saturated with the flavours of toasty oak, mulberries, roasted plums and coffee.

MontGras Reserva Carmenère 2015

Just the ticket with bavette and oven frites or a homemade cottage pie for that matter.

The singleton Valentine

This category probably deserves the best bottle of wine of all. Here’s one I fell in love with at a big tasting in the autumn: Le Clos du Caillou “Bouquet des Garrigues” Côtes du Rhône 2013, France (Prohibition Wines in Muswell Hill, London, £17.70; hangingditch in Manchester, £18.50; The Wine Tasting Shop in Balham, London, £18.50).

Local wine merchants are a great source of proper bottles of wine.

The personal Valentine

A properly romantic gesture needs to have a bit of you in it. I can’t help with that. But if you need a bit of help in the vinous gumboot department because you’re trying to track down a wine you loved drinking together on holiday, or over dinner in a restaurant, then the website wine-searcher.com might be able to help you find it.

For a personal touch, try Wine Searcher Credit: Haarala Hamilton & Valerie Berry

Wine-searcher can’t help if you’re like the woman in The New Yorker cartoon who walks into a wine shop and says, “I can’t remember the name – but it had a taste I liked.” If you’ve got the name, tap it in to wine-searcher.com and see if it can come up with a stockist. Another good website to check out is slurp.co.uk, which sells a lot of wines more usually seen in the off-trade or in independent wine merchants.

The Classic

A man on a train once asked me for help choosing Valentine’s flowers. First I vetoed the red-roses-in-a-basket he was planning. Then the supermarket website he intended to buy from. Then he put his phone quietly back in his pocket and I felt like the biggest misery-guts ever. I’ve wondered ever since if his poor girlfriend got anything at all that year on February 14. I hope they’re still together.

Anyway, after years of being a Valentine Goblin, a “Please shoot me if I ever recommend pink champagne for Valentine’s Day” type of wine writer – I’ve had a change of heart.  Not only is rosé champagne utterly delicious, when someone turns up with a chilled bottle it really does feel special: a bit fluttery, a bit frivolous, definitely hedonistic.

Oeil de Perdrix Rosé Champagne NV, Devaux D Rosé Champagne NV, and Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2004 Champagne

Here’s a ménage à trois of recommendations: Oeil de Perdrix Rosé Champagne NV (Majestic, £24.99 or £18.73 in a mixed six until February 28) is elegant, and light, slightly rose-scented with a pretty red-berry smell. Really good value, too.

Then there’s Devaux D Rosé Champagne NV (The Wine Centre, Essex, £55; Valhalla’s Goat, Glasgow, £56). A really impressive wine, just faintly reminiscent of dried violets and wild raspberries. No one ever talks about this champagne but it’s a cracker.

Or go for broke with the structured, and refined, yet still pretty Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2004 Champagne (Oddbins, £275).