Valentine Wine 

Wine on a day associated with love -- and massacres.

Sexy, sultry, sensuous, luscious body: Ever wonder why these words are used to describe wine? Could it be that wine leads us down the road to romance? To desire?

Wine certainly goes with Valentine's Day. But does romance have to rule the day on Valentine's? What if Valentine's Day conjures up bitterness and resentment rather than romance? For the singles out there, this Hallmark holiday might be black and depressing. So I started wondering about how February 14th has become inextricably linked with romance.

Like so many other holidays, the true origin of why we celebrate Saint Valentine's Day is filled with historical conjecture. One legend says third century Roman Emperor Claudius II declared that his soldiers must remain unmarried, since bachelors made more loyal warriors, according to the History Channel Web site. A priest under his rule, Valentine, finding this decree unromantic and unjust, defied Claudius and performed marriages anyway. Once Claudius found out, he sentenced Valentine to death, thus martyring the romantic priest for all eternity. The same legend says that Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter and wrote love letters to her, which he signed "From Your Valentine."

As for the timing of Valentine's Day, some speculate the church established the date to "Christianize" the celebrations of the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, occurring each year at the ides of February on the 15th. It all became official when Pope Gelacius declared February 14th St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.

By the 18th century, February 14th emerged as the day friends and lovers exchanged tokens of affection, especially notes. Today, one billion valentines are bought each year, approximately 85 percent by women, according to the Greeting Card Association. Guess now we know who is keeping the romance torch alive.

These days, Valentine wines let you stoke the fires of passion, drown out loneliness, toast to what is possible, or just get drunk with friends. Ports are a special favorite of mine on cold, winter nights to liven up spirits among friends; sweeter sparkling wines almost always please the ladies; and big red wines get you there quicker when a speedy buzz is on the agenda. Whether to lubricate or drown emotions on this Valentine's Day, wine's the ticket.

Recommended Wines

Carmen 2001 Nativa Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley -- On the nose, eucalyptus and chocolate float up, with mint, more chocolate and dark cherries following on the tongue. Soft, elegant tannins don't offend. $15.

Cockburn 20 Year Tawny Port -- Apart from the laughable spelling of this port, it's all serious juice, full-bodied and dripping with sweet butterscotch and honey flavors. Truly delicious stuff and worth every penny. Keep in mind that port keeps pretty fresh for up to year after being opened, so it also can be an investment in future evenings. $53.

Graham 10 Year Tawny Port -- One of my favorite tawny ports. Rich with intense caramel and brilliant toffee flavors. The aftertaste keeps going and going and going. This amazing port warms you from the inside and whisks away cares. Really. $30.

Banfi 2002 Rosa Regale -- The most romantic of wines, a sweet, rich dessert sparkler from Italy. Bonus: It comes in a really cool bottle. Fragrant with ripe strawberries and with a sexy finish that lasts seemingly forever. $18.


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