FMN – February 2019 – sweetheart wines

I admit that I live on the edge domestically and walk on the borderline of being in trouble most of the time.  It’s not a bad strategy to live by because when I do something good or nice, I look like a champion. If you resemble that profile then the upcoming day for sweethearts gives you that chance to shine. Some will buy cheap chocolates or cheesy cards that never seem to have the correct words. But you are smarter than that and will follow my lead by buying your special someone the bottle (or three) that they need to put up with your shenanigans.

Sparkling is always a good way to start the evening. These wines are not only festive and sexy but also versatile enough to go with a myriad of food types. Tank method sparklers, like Prosecco, are still popular even though their market has waned a bit. For these occasions, however, I lean toward traditional method wines. These are sparkling wines where their ‘sparkle’ comes from the second fermentation in the very same bottle in which they are sold. Champagne is the most familiar location and brand of this style of wine but almost every country that produces wine, produces some traditional method sparkling. In the case of South Africa, this method and the wines produced by them are known as Cap Classique.

From disease issues and poor wine making practices to government interference, the rainbow nation has had a rocky history when it comes to wine production. With modern influence and outside investment of knowledge and capital, South Africa has reinvented their wine industry. In fact, export markets for South African sparkling wines have almost doubled in the last decade. So you may begin to see more of MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) on your local shelves, usually at a fraction of the price of other Traditional Method wines.

Starting your food choices with some oysters won’t hurt your chances for the evening, nor will another wine. Although there are a number of great choices for a light and refreshing white, considering the occasion, we need to select a wine that speaks to us and has some passion.  Spanish wines are some of the most food-friendly and well-priced wines on the market. Unfortunately, many consumers overlook the wines of Spain, especially the whites.

With the Portuguese border to the south, Galicia is nestled in the northwestern portion of Spain. The coastal wine region of Rías Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shas) boasts production of interesting white wines made from the indigenous Albariño grape. Accounting for about 90% of all the area under vine, this variety’s aromatic profile differs slightly depending on the subzone where the grapes were grown. Overall, these wines are dry and crisp with a multitude of aromatics jumping out of the glass. With this region producing some of the best white juice for the price, I am gob-smacked why more consumers are not flocking to these.

For the final wine, I wanted to bring in a classic grape while exploring an underappreciated wine producing country. The Merlot grape has been a component in some of the most appreciated and high-priced wines of Bordeaux. Many countries, including our own, have had varied success producing this variety but one has itself positioned to be the next superstar, Uruguay.

This misunderstood country has one of the highest per capita incomes and lowest levels of poverty in all of South America. Although well-known for their prized free range beef and organic agriculture, Uruguay has an evolving wine industry that is positioned to make a huge impact in coming years. Although they have been making wine here since the late 19th Century, a high domestic consumption has kept exports to a minimum (less than 5%). Finding these gems on store shelves is a treat and you will be rewarded with wines drinking well above their price point.

Although there are many interesting wines to choose for your evening, these are a few that often are overlooked or underappreciated, much like your significant other. So I hope you and your sweetheart enjoy this holiday with good food, great wine and bad intentions. And just in case wine wasn’t what they were expecting as a gift, have some flowers and chocolate on standby.




Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV                                                      $15.99

This Western Cape sparkler contains 54% Pinot Noir and 46% Chardonnay. The minuscule, persistent bubbles offer a testament to the Tradition Method production. The nose has aromas of bright red fruit (raspberry, cherry). The palate has evident acidity with a caressing mousse. The wine is dry with a slight off-dry perception, due to the 8 g/L of residual sugar. Crunchy red fruit on the palate mimics the findings on the nose along with a slight apple finish. Pair with creamy soft cheeses (brie, camembert), barbecue, salty cured meat, or just with the one you love.


Lícia Albariño , DO Rías Baixas, Spain                                                  $13.99

This 100% Albariño has pronounced aromatics of candied citrus (grapefruit and lime), citrus pith, apple, crushed herbs, and a brine nuance. The palate is dry with racy mouth-watering acidity and well balanced alcohol. There are flavors of citrus (tangerine), orchard fruit (green apple), minerals and a pleasant brined ocean mist finish. This wines pair well with cheeses (Manchego), Caesar salad, and just about anything that comes out of the ocean including clams or oysters on the half shell.


Bouza Merlot Reserva 2016, Montevideo, Uruguay                        $25.99

One first notices the ripe fruit aromatics (blackberry and plum), pencil graphite, and a perfumed purple flower aspect. The palate is dry with well- balanced alcohol. The bright acidity carries flavors of black fruit and a silky textured tannin structure. This is an absolutely elegant, ridiculously well-made Merlot that I would love to blind taste with the best from France and California. Pair this wine with grilled meat, game, and (much to the “experts” chagrin) dark chocolate.