When it comes to romance, we probably all defer to wine as the beverage of choice. Even as a child I knew this watching Lady and the Tramp sucking up spaghetti noodles with a Chianti bottle holding a candle.
For some bubbles may mean romance, the bubbles are celebratory and exciting reminding us of the first days of a romance.
Others may prefer the depth of a red wine, with images of being curled up in front of a fire with the one you love.
Perhaps the wine evokes a place and a memory, a bottle of rose enjoyed at a beach when you first met.
Or maybe you are creating a memory, which allows you freedom. Drinking Rosé out of mason jars on a mountain top, or a bottle of sparkling wine under the stars…
If you are looking for “The Best Romantic Wine”, well, I won’t be able to give you that. But I can give you some ideas to help you choose.
We are exploring romantic wines this month with the French #Winophiles led by Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm. You can read my colleagues’ posts (they are linked at the bottom of this post). We will be gathering on Twitter on Saturday, February 19th at 8 am Pacific (11 am Eastern) to discuss Romantic wines! Join us by following and using the hashtag #Winophiles!
How to find the right wine for Romance
Go with your Date’s favorite wine
This is a no-brainer. You can choose a specific wine they love, or a variety you know they enjoy. This gets bonus points for remembering what they like. If they are a red wine drinker, now is not the time to convince them that white wines are wonderful too. Save that for another day.
Go for sparkling!
There is nothing like the sound of a cork popping from a bottle of sparkling wine. Do it the right way though, don’t shoot the cork out into the room, putting your date’s eye out or breaking something isn’t romantic. Here’s how to do it: Keep a hand firmly on the cork while using the other hand to rotate the bottle, until the cork releases with a soft Pfft. (I usually use a cloth over the cork so if I lose my grip it doesn’t go flying and…if the wine decides to froth I have a cloth to absorb any spills.
Sparkling wines are great with food. All those little bubbles cleanse your palate with each sip, making the next bite of food taste as good as the first.
Here you have so many wines to choose from, from Champagne to Prosecco, Cava to Crémant, Cap Classique to Sec…or go a little more hip and pick a Pét Nat or super casual with a Piquette! (Here’s an article on Sparkling wines from around the globe to give you more ideas).
Choose a wine based on a place you have been
Maybe you and your date have traveled and the bottle is a memory of that place. Find a wine from the winery in Santa Barbara that you tasted on a trip!
I’ll caution you not to try to find the exact bottle and vintage that you tasted. Those kinds of wine memories are wonderful, but can’t be recreated. That bottle of 2004 Syrah that you had 5 years ago, well it has aged since then and it will not taste the same. It may still be wonderful, but it will have further developed in the bottle and will likely not be the same.
Choose a wine based on a place you both want to visit
Take a virtual vacation, a little preview of a trip that you know you want to take together. A bottle of Pinot Grigio and risotto, as you dream of a trip together to Venice, or a bottle of Tempranillo as you plan for a trip to Spain. Here you can also plan to pair with a dish from the region.
So what did we choose for a Romantic Wine?
So what will Michael and I be drinking to create a little romance? Well thanks to this article, this has become a full-blown conversation at our house. Our cellar is filled with wines, many tied to memories of a trip to a specific winery, so there are loads of options.
But this is the French #Winophiles…so we needed to find a French Wine, and we have not visited France to visit wineries, so our cellar is a little thin in that direction.
I sat down with Michael to determine what region and wine he would like, I mean, this is about Romance, so he gets to choose. We narrowed it down to rosé from Provençe or a Cabernet Franc from the Loire.
I decided it would be the Cab Franc. It’s still a little chilly and romance today for me leans more to castles than beaches.
A virtual trip to the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is located in the northwest part of France along the Loire River. It has a cool northern climate similar to Champagne but is one of the most diverse growing regions in France.
The Loire Valley stretches 600 miles along the Loire River. It is divided into 4 basic regions, The Pay Nantais which sits closest to the Atlantic Ocean, Anjou-Saumur, considered the Central Loire, Touraine which is east of Anjou-Saumur, and the Upper Loire, which is the furthest east.
There are some 300 Chateaux (Castles) along a 175 miles stretch of the Loire River, so a cruise along this stretch definitely sounds romantic.
Our first wine comes from St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil on the western end of the Touraine region in the Loire Valley. I have always loved the way St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil rolls off my tongue. It is such a romantic name.
Sebastien is a native of this place and comes from 15 generations of winemakers. His wines come from 15 hectares of Cabernet Franc that his grandparents planted around the Second World War.
He has been making wine since 1999 and his fruit is biodynamically farmed and hand-harvested and they are exploring permaculture.
2020 Sebastien David “Hurluberlu” St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil AOP Cabernet Franc (low intervention)
This wine is labeled as “Vin de France”. I would imagine that this is because of the method. Sebastien David pulls whole clusters of this Cabernet Franc and ferments with wild yeast in concrete eggs and 25 days of Carbonic maceration. This wine is a Cuvee of 20 parcels.
The name “Hurluberlu” is the locale nickname for Sebastien and means “someone whose spirit is often lost in the clouds”. Ahh…indeed, he must be a romantic!
13% abv – 2900 cases produced – $27 (at GaragisteLV)
This wine was fruit-dominant! It is joyful and bright with notes of raspberry and cranberry and something that reminded me of strawberry soda. I picture enjoying this wine with festive conversation, maybe with friends (oh, maybe that’s not so romantic), maybe on a romantic picnic in a meadow! Juicy, vibrant, and alive this is not a complicated wine, but it is sure to bring a smile.
Gaspard From Jenny & François Selections
Jenny & François Selections are importers of natural wines.
“We present the wines of small vineyards in this competitive worldwide market, in order to defend an endangered species — winemakers who work like artisans, crafting a different wine each year. They do not impose a preconceived taste on their wines, but look to be surprised by what nature gives them — natural wines.” (From the Jenny & François Selections Website)
“Gaspard” is their house label for wines from the Loire Valley. They source grapes from sustainable or organic vineyards and make Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and …Cabernet Franc.
The name “Gaspard” means “bringer of treasure”, and that is what they seek to do with these wines.
2017 Gaspard, Touraine, Val de Loire Cabernet Franc (low intervention)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc with a bit of Cot (the name for Malbec in the Loire region). The vines in this vineyard are between 25 and 60 years old growing clay and limestone soil.
Destemmed and hand-sorted the grapes are crushed and go into vat to macerate for 5 to 6 weeks. They ferment on indigenous yeast, are pressed, and spend a year in concrete. They are bottled, unfiltered, and unfined.
12.5% abv – $19.95 (at GaragisteLV)
This wine had warm or dried herbs and a bit more in the way of savory notes. The fruit here seemed darker, like blackberry juice perhaps. This wine enhanced the food, popping the pepper notes in the dish without making the pepper overpowering.
Here you might settle into some comfortable soft music with a romantic dinner. This is a quieter wine, that shines when paired with food. Picture a romantic evening with a really great listener.
Upscale BBQ for a pairing?
Jenny & François suggested BBQ with this wine, but we needed something a bit more elegant. Presentation is everything for romance.
Marinated Flat steak with blackberry BBQ sauce on smashed potatoes with herbs, with zucchini ribbons and thyme.
I picked up a flat steak from the butcher’s counter. You can use skirt steak if you can find it. You do want a cut with some integrated fat and ideally, it should be about ¾ inch thick.
Create your marinade with oil, acid, salt, and herbs. I used lemon juice and canola oil and a mix of salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, thyme, garlic, and Chinese 5 spice. Place the steak and the marinade in a zip lock bag and let it marinate for 30-45 minutes at room temp. Then grill it on high for 3 to 5 minutes per side. It should rest 5 minutes before you cut it into slices on the bias.
While it’s marinating you can make the potatoes. I left the skins on and smashed them roughly with butter, shredded gouda, fresh thyme, and rosemary.
The blackberry BBQ sauce was seedless blackberry jam (Michael hates the seeds), Worcestershire sauce, Paprika, Cardamom, catsup, balsamic reduction, red wine, and finely chopped dried cranberries (to pull out the notes in the wine). I heated this over med-low to melt down the jam and cook down the wine.
The zucchini is simply ribbons barely cooked in olive oil then topped with fresh thyme and lemon zest.
It’s all about the plating here. Use a ring form to plate your potatoes in the center of the plate, top with slices of your steak, drizzle that with the berry sauce. Rim the potatoes with your ribbons of zucchini and sprinkle them with lemon zest and fresh thyme.
You have to splurge a little on a romantic dinner, and we did with our dessert. Simple, but beautifully presented, this dessert tied in the berry notes in each of the wines and wrapped them in a bit of chocolate. We crumbled a moist chocolate cake in the bottom of the glass, added some whipped cream, topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries, and finished it off with some shaved dark chocolate. I think romantic desserts should always be eaten with a spoon.
And there you have it! A romantic pairing, that made us crave travel again…hmm, maybe a cruise on the Loire with stops at some Castles is in order!
The French #Winophiles on Romantic wines
If you need some more suggestions…well, my Colleagues’ with the French #Winophiles have you covered!
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Love is in the Air and We are Spicing Things Up with a Cahors Wine paired with an American Steak #Winophiles”
- Susannah of Avvinare is “Falling In Love All Over Again, With Champagne”.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is “Keeping It Spicy: Blackened Salmon + Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas 2018”.
- Cathie of Side Hustle Wino tells us “Love is on the Table”.
- Terri of Our Good Life sings “Wild Thing, I Think I Love Le Pont Bandol and Wild Caught Orange Roughy”
- Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “A Girls’ Weekend, Grilled Branzino, and a Mag of Palmer & Co. Champagne “
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator dishes up a twofer with “It’s Loveuary! Romance from France: Fun Fondue, Coq a Vin” and “Clink sustainably: Create climate conscious conversations with Bordeaux Wines and Stemple Creek Ranch Beef “
Grilled marinated flat steak on a bed of smashed potatoes with herbs and gouda, topped with a blackberry barbeque sauce and finished with zucchini ribbons with lemon zest and fresh purple thyme.
This is a perfect romantic dinner and pairs wonderfully with a fresh low intervention Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley.
- 1 ½ lb flat steak
- 1 ½ tbs fresh black pepper
- 1 tbs salt
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp Chinese 5 spice
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- 2 russet potatoes
- 2 tbs butter
- ¼ cup grated gouda
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
- 2 tbs seedless blackberry jam
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp Paprika
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- ¼ cup red wine
- 2 tbs catsup
- 2 tsp balsamic reduction
- 2 tbs finely chopped dried cranberries
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- Fresh thyme
- Mix 1 ½ tbs freshly cracked black pepper, 1 tbs salt, ¼ tsp each of cumin, paprika, and Chinese 5 spice, ½ tsp of dried thyme. Add this to ¼ cup of canola oil, the juice of 1 lemon, and 4 cloves of
- Trim any excess fat off of your steak and place the steak and the marinade in a zip lock bag to marinate for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature.
- While that is marinating, start your potatoes
- Start a pot of salted water boiling. Scrub 2 russet potatoes and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, return to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15minutes or until they are fork-tender.
- Start your sauce, by combining the blackberry jam, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ tsp each of paprika and cardamom, red wine, catsup, balsamic reduction, and chopped dried cranberries in a small pot. Cook
over medium-low heat to melt the jam and cook the wine (about 5 minutes). Turn to low to keep warm.
- Using a vegetable peeler, make ribbons of the zucchini. Place them on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture.
- Smash your potatoes with 2 tbs of butter ¼ cup of gouda, fresh thyme, and rosemary. Cover and keep warm for plating.
- Heat your grill to high (we used a grill pan on the stove). Cook the steak for 3-5 minutes per side then let it rest for 5 minutes.
- While the meat is resting plate your potatoes in ring molds in the center of your plate, cover to keep warm.
- Now cook the Zucchini ribbons. Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in a pan, lay in the zucchini ribbons, and sprinkle lightly with salt. You may need to do this in batches. Cook for 1 minute until just slightly softened (you want them to still hold up to make the ribbon shape)
- Cut the steak into strips on the bias and place on top of the potatoes, drizzle with the bbq sauce.
- Rim the potatoes with your ribbons of zucchini and sprinkle them with lemon zest and fresh thyme.
You might have steak leftover. That's never a bad thing, considering how delicious it is!
Amount Per Serving Calories 1758Total Fat 114gSaturated Fat 38gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 64gCholesterol 376mgSodium 4094mgCarbohydrates 80gFiber 9gSugar 28gProtein 99g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate. (and some of these calories are that leftover steak!)
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.