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That Valentine Thing (February 6, 2007)

There are certain fixed points in the calendar that wine journalists dread. Year after year we are asked to write about these occasions. Think Christmas (What goes with the turkey?), June (What's great for the BBQ?), January (What are the Best Bargains because everyone is broke?).

And then there is Valentine's Day.

In February my heart beats a little faster. Not because I suffer from Hallmark-card-itis but because I have been writing about what to buy for your lover/partner/mother in the way of alcoholic beverages on February 14th for over thirty years.

I feel rather like Elizabeth Taylor's eighth husband – I know what's expected of me, but the problem is, how do I make it different? Happily, this year my webmaster provided the challenge – "Wine for all seasons of a couple's relationship." So just call me Dr. Fill.

Love is a many-splintered thing and we all go through the Sensory Switchback of Emotional Entanglement – which is shrink-speak for putting up with each other's foibles.

The thing about wine is, unlike emotional responses, you can't fake it. And you can't convince someone else that it is the nectar of the gods if it makes them gag. One man's meat is another woman's poisson.

One of the New Year cards I got by email was a power-point slide show, entitled "Wine Is Bottled Poetry." As sexy shots of wine bottles and glasses flashed on the screen with Bob Marley's music in the background, so too did treacly sentiments such as "In wine one beholds the heart of another," "Compromises are for relationships, not for wine," and my favourite, "Wine improves with age. The older I get the more I like it."

In the same spirit of hearts and flowers, knock back your Love Potion No. 9 and get in the mood for some advice for the lovelorn from Mr. Lonely Hearts, a.k.a. The Wine Guy.

First Date Wine: I suppose you can make wine from dates, but I've never tasted it. I think they mean, what wine should you order on a first date to impress her/him? It's imperative that you get some inkling about the lovee's taste before you sit down in that corner booth. It's no good ordering a mouth-puckering Pouilly-Fumé if your date enjoys White Zinfandel. Play it safe. Hand your date the wine list and ask him/her to order the wine and pray your innamorata doesn't choose from the right-hand side of the list. Champagne is the no-brainer compromise wine. Especially in pink if she's into wearing dresses. (Technically not a champagne, but made by the champagne method: Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, LCBO, $29.95.)

Seduction Wine: It's not so much what wine you order but what you do with it once you've ordered it. Under no circumstances drink it out of her/his shoe. Your partner will be squelching around in wet footwear for the rest of the evening and you may come down with a bad case of athlete's mouth. Champagne, of course, is the ideal seduction wine and can be consumed from navels, small of backs, collar bones, etc. This will also save on the washing up. (Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, LCBO, $41.60.)

Romantic Dinner for Two: The wine that goes with everything – fish, fowl or good red herring – is champagne. But if bubbles get up her nose, try that other all-purpose wine – Beaujolais. There is a little village in the northern part of the region called St. Amour – the perfect wine for the day that will match fish (if chilled – the wine, that is) or meat (if served at room temperature). You won't find St. Amour on the shelves but your fallback position is champagne: Pol Roger Brut, LCBO, $52.90.

Anniversary Wine: Try to remember what was the first wine you shared together. If it's Baby Duck, forget about it. Same goes for Manischewitz. If, say, you're celebrating an eighth anniversary, try to find an eight-year-old wine. Older than that and you're probably out of luck in this marketplace. But think about champagne, which is, after all, the drink of celebration. Unless both of you want to remain celibate. (Taittinger Brut Champagne 1999, Vintages, $69.95.)

A Rekindle-the-Romance-in-your-Relationship Wine: As in all strategies of love and warfare, what counts is the element of surprise. When she/he is in the bath, enter the room with an ice bucket, a bottle of champagne and two flutes. If she doesn't play the flute, give her a glass instead. (And if she doesn't like champagne, why are you still together?) Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne, Vintages, $49.95.

Kiss and Make Up Wine: You've screwed up royally; you owe her/him big-time; money is no object. A magnum of vintage champagne. By the time you've polished it off neither of you will remember what you were fighting about. Now, this is going to cost you: Taittinger Brut Reserve in magnum, Vintages, $123.95.

Now, if you think I am somewhat single-minded in my beverage recommendations on how to cope with a range of romantic situations, remember what Madame De Pompadour said: "Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it." Or that other French fellow, Napoleon: "I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate ... and I drink champagne when I lose, to console myself." And doesn't that just sum up The Battle of the Sexes.




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