This month’s issue of Haymarket and Gainesville Lifestyle marks my debut as one of the wine column contributors to this magazine. It’s both my honor and pleasure to be asked to do this, and to share with you my thoughts and suggestions for one of my favorite wine occasions, Valentine’s Day. For this piece, I’ve chosen three wines from two countries that I think perfectly express all the romance and intrigue that one could desire for this annual ‘Day of Love.’
Our first wine comes from the very place where the timeless, romantic story of Romeo and Juliet occurred, the ‘City of Love,’ Verona, Italy. Located in the western hills of the Veneto region, home to the great wine Amarone della Valpolicella, Verona is also where the historic winery Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine was founded in 1925. Nearly a century later, Famiglia Pasqua (the Pasqua family) is three generations deep in winemaking and a leading player in the Italian and international wine world.
One of their best wines, and one my favorites, is the 2015 PassioneSentimento (“passion” and “feeling”) Rosso. This young, yet beautiful, red blend of the grapes corvina (driving force of Amarone), croatina, and merlot drinks like a much longer-aged wine, with an identity all its own. This is a hand-crafted wine, made with great care and the best selected grapes of the harvest. Oak aged, its color is deep ruby red. The aromatics are intense, with plenty of red berry and dried fruit notes, and varying hints of spice. It has a rich mouthfeel, with a long, healthy finish…this is a great food wine, especially with cured meats and aged cheese. What also makes this wine perfect for Valentine’s Day? The label: inspired by Shakespeare himself, it depicts an image that is taken from from a photograph, shot by Giò Martorana, of the world famous Romeo and Juliet wall, where messages from lovers and visitors from around the world are forever inscribed, located alongside “Juliet’s house” on Cappello Street in Verona.
If white wine is your preference, or perhaps how you’d like to start the evening, Famiglia Pasqua has you covered there as well. The 2015 PassioneSentimento Bianco is another Veneto offering, this time from the single white wine grape garganega. It is equally appealing in both romance and quality. Garganega is one of Italy’s most ancient grapes, and produces wonderfully vibrant wines that are marked by floral notes, citrus scents and almond. Also aged in French oak, this Famiglia Pasqua bianco is an elegant white wine, round and rich in texture, with a lasting finish…an outstanding complement to appetizers, seasoned cheeses, or really with any recipe.
Both of the Famiglia Pasqua wines well represent the region from which they’re produced, but at a price that also reflects an enormous value. What you get from these wines for what you pay, approximately $20, can’t be touched and makes them all the more appealing.
So, we’re off to Spain! If a great sparkling wine is your desire for Valentine’s Day (and night), you can’t go wrong with the 2016 Mont-Marcal Rosado Brut Cava, a dry rosé sparkling wine, from the prestigious wine zone Penedes. Like champagne, cava is produced in the traditional method of sparkling wine-making, with the second fermentation occurring inside the bottle, giving it much more concentration and character. This cava is made from 100 percent trepat grapes, an indigenous grape from northeastern Spain normally used for rosé. The color is an attractive and deep red, thanks to the 12-hour maceration period when the color of the grape juice darkens from contact with the grape skins. The bubbles are very fine, and the mousse that sits atop the wine is big and frothy. There are fragrances of red berries, cherries and blackberries, with a hint of plum and fig, making this cava an aromatic dream. And as expected on the palate, it is young, fruity, fresh, soft, and, above all, elegant. Ideally, this cava is best served with appetizers but, in truth, as with all well-made sparkling wines, it goes deliciously well with just about any dish you want to serve. And like the Italian wines mentioned, the $20 you’ll spend to enjoy it will be the steal of the day.
Now one important thing to know is that while the prices of these wines might suggest a quick trip down to the grocery store, where wine bottles abound, you won’t find them there. Instead, you can find these wines, and will be considerably better served, at your local wine shop, such as Cork & Fork in Gainesville and The Grapevine in Warrenton. Let these folks get to know you and your palate, they love to talk about wine.
I hope you have a very Happy Valentine’s Day with someone who makes you smile, and I hope these wines make it to your table.