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February 9, 2012

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Romantic wines to warm the body and soul

ON February 14 lovers in Shanghai will brave the chill of winter and do their best to ignite sparks of passion and romance. Throughout history wine has been the preferred beverage to foster romance while warming your body and soul, making it the perfect beverage for Valentine's Day.

Sense of smell & warmth

The intimate embrace of wine and romance is not merely one of tales and hopeful wishes, there's real chemistry behind the relationship. Scientific studies have shown that the aromas of certain wines can stimulate sensations of arousal and general well-being. In his book "Scents and Sensuality," Dr Max Lake outlines the science that indicates wine aromas replicate human pheromones that help stimulate feelings of attraction in the brain. He notes that the earthy, leathery and musky scent of oak-aged red wines most closely resemble male pheromones while the lighter, fresher and subtly yeasty notes of white and sparkling wines resemble female pheromones.

In addition to the arousing aromas, a good wine will also impart a healthy dose of antioxidants into your body helping fortify you against the cold of winter. While wine in moderation is healthy, it doesn't help warm your body temperature. Instead the alcohol in wine causes blood vessels to dilate and move blood flow to the surface, giving sensations of warmth. Perhaps more important, wine can do wonders to warm the spirit.

Something special

Valentine's Day is actually one of the most difficult days to be romantic. The commercial aspects of the holiday, the crowded restaurants with their obligatory set menus and the concept that romance is expected and not spontaneous collectively conspire to make this day a big challenge to show unique, creative and personalized passion. How can one make this inherently stressful day, easier, more enjoyable and more successful? The answer is to use wine to make unexpected romantic gestures that separate you and your amorous advances from the pack.

New romance

First dates are stressful anytime but when they are on Valentine's Day the stress level climbs exponentially. In these situations I suggest starting with a young exuberant wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as the vivacious citrus and tropical fruit scents and flavors will literally jump out of your glass and help dissipate the tensions and inhibitions. The fresh acidity of the wine also pairs well with many of the appetizers and seafood at the start of a meal. Some of the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines available in Shanghai are Mud House, Kim Crawford, Forrest Estates and Te Mata Estate. Another romantic way to break the ice while enjoying these stimulating wines is to hand feed your date. Suitable foods for this intimate gesture are oysters, calamari and chocolates.

Established relationships

How can you invigorate a long-established relationship on Valentine's Day? One way is to pick a wine with special meaning for you and your partner, or a wine that has a story that touches your partner's heart. Delve into your past and pick a year or place that has significance. Choose a wine from the vintage when you first met, kissed or fell in love. Or try and remember the wine you enjoyed when you first dated. If you have special memories of travels to wine regions like Tuscany, Burgundy or Rioja then these wines will help you relive these fond memories. Serving wines with these special meanings will reinforce the continuity of your relationship harkening you back to those heady days of first romance.

Great combinations

On Valentine's Day it's not enough for you and your date to be compatible, your wine and food selections should also be well-matched. Most Western restaurants offer set menus so you'll have to pick wines to match the different courses. If you only want one kind of wine pick a Champagne or good sparkling wine. These wines are not only the epitome of romance but they go well with practically all types of food save for red meats. Great budget sparklers include Freixenet Negro Brut, a well-made Spanish Cava with plenty of yellow fruit flavors and tiny bubbles to refresh and tickle the palate. If you want a touch of sweetness Freixenet also makes an off-sweet Cava called Carta Nevada Semi Seco. Three of my favorite non-vintage Champagnes that are sure to lift affections are Bollinger Special Cuvee, a robust wine that's consistently one of the best, Ayala Brut Nature Zero Dosage, super dry and sexy, and Taittinger Brut Reserve, a delicate and feminine wine.

If your Valentine's meal includes red meat then I suggest a good Saint Estephe red wine. Located in the northern part of the left bank of Bordeaux, this sub-appellation makes some of the most sensual and earthy red wines often with a touch of spice. Perhaps the most appropriate of all Saint Estephe wines is Calon Segur, a superb third-growth wine that has a heart on the label. Other recommended reds from Saint Estephe include Chateau Meyney, a Cru Bourgeois wine that's often better than many of the classed growths, and Chateau Marbuzet, another fine Cru Bourgeois.


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