The best wines to celebrate Valentine’s Day

We’re fast approaching Valentine’s Day. And for many that means a special meal, presents and celebratory wine. Below we’ve listed eight top choices from the International Wine & Spirit competition, which is in its 50th year, all of which would be ideal for a romantic meal for two.

The IWSC awards excellence in wine and spirits from all around the world and aims to find the highest quality products. Entries come from around 90 countries, and each sample is judged according to its class and individual components.

Best wines for Valentine’s Day

The chosen wines range from elegant, delicate champagne to toast your loved one, to robust reds with depth and flavour.

The best toasting Champagne


If you want to splash out a little, go for the elegant yet decadent Charles Lafitte Grande Cuvee NV. It’s toasty and has a refined balance on the mouth, with notes of clear, fresh green apple. It’s perfect paired with salty snacks before the main event of the Valentine’s meal.

For an even more lavish treat, choose Lanson Noble Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 2002. This is a beautiful choice for any special occasion and will definitely impress on Valentine’s Day. You’ll enjoy notes of honey, lemon and brioche with flavours of marzipan, golden apples and grapefruit.

Wines perfect for seafood dishes


You can’t have a romantic meal without some kind of seafood. Whether you’re opting for an oyster starter, or a main with King prawns, you need the ideal wine to go with it. Greyfriars Vineyard Sparkling Rose Reserve 2014 is a good choice as it pairs beautifully with delicate yet refined seafood dishes. Packed with lively bubbles, and delicate flavours, it will make your meal stand out for the right reasons.

Or, you could try the crispness of the very fruity La Chabilsienne Chablis Grand Cru Chateau Grenouilles 2014. Jammed with intense fruity flavours, expect a hit of sharp lemon against a background of hazelnut.

Best wines for steak dishes

 

If your ideal Valentine’s Day meal has a meaty main, such as steak, then you need a wine with sufficient depth of flavour. A great choice to pair with steak is the Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia. Its colour is a deep red and it’s full of the rich flavours of violet, blueberries and jasmine with hints of spiciness, balsamic, coffee and nutmeg.

Or a good choice for steak is Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a jewel like dark ruby red wine, with intense black fruitiness. Expect more than a hint of cherry, tobacco, spice and blackcurrant mingling with a background of vanilla oak.

Wines for dessert

 

Valentine’s Day is not the day to count calories, and the ideal romantic meal always ends with a decadent dessert. A good dessert wine choice is Andrew Peller Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2015. It’s a distinctively sweet wine with aromas of lemon and peach over flavours of ginger, orange peel and honey. It’s guaranteed to make any dessert even more special.

Or, for a real treat, choose Kopke Porto Colheita 1981, with its rich, dark mahogany colour and deep flavours. You’ll taste dates, dried cherries, spices and roasted cashews in this sweet yet powerful port wine. A crisp acidity cuts through the depth and the whole thing is finished with a creamy flavour.

Is dry farming the way forward for the world’s wine industry?

Climate change is affecting the way wine is made right now. It’s no longer a vague future threat, but more of a ticking time bomb. And as the wine industry uses vast amounts of water, experts are looking for new ways to keep crops growing. Some vineyards have already taken on the challenge and have instigated dry farming.

While the wine industry has been making moves to change the way wine is made, most sustainable solutions focus on things like biodiversity and renewable energy. However, freshwater irrigation remains the biggest problem facing the wine industry as we move into a new world of adapting to extreme weather.

What impact does the wine industry have on the global water supply?

A recent piece of research reveals that more than a third of consumers take the time to look for companies and brands that are concerned with environmental and ethical impact. Within the millennial generation, three-quarters of consumers are happy to spend more on products that are truly sustainable.

However, the use of water irrigation in the wine industry has failed to pick up many headlines. Around 83% of wine regions in the New World are irrigated using fresh water. In the Old World, it drops to 10%.

How much water does it take to make wine?

According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 5 litres of water to produce a 125ml glass of wine. This is without irrigation and is based on the water used in the winery alone. If we add in irrigation, it rises to 110 litres of water per glass of wine in a normal climate, and 240 litres in regions suffering from drought. Of course, the freshwater used to make wine differs a lot depending on the region.

The global wine industry is worth more than £229 billion, and wine grapes are the most valuable fruit crop in existence. Some scientists say that the land suitable for wine making will have diminished by up to three-quarters by 2050. All of which gives plenty of impetus to implement solutions such as dry farming.

What is ‘dry farming’?

Dry farming refers to a method of soil preparation that makes the most of the moisture from winter rainfall, which is used to sustain the vines as they grow. It guides root systems, so they grow deep enough to find water and micro-nutrients themselves. Irrigated vines have root systems that stay very close to the surface, so that they are vulnerable.

There’s a lot of work involved in making dry farming work, but it does make tastier, sweeter grapes. It also allows the soil and vine to live a longer, more stable life. It is inevitable that at some point in the future, it won’t be possible to irrigate vines in some regions. This means managing water effectively should be the most important factor in vineyards moving towards true sustainability.

Effective wine matching for vegan dishes

A record-breaking number of people signed up for Veganuary 2018, with the campaign growing by 183%. Mid-way through Veganuary 2019, it’s likely that this will increase even more as the vegan trend takes hold. There are also an increasing number of wines available to buy online that are vegan, but what about matching them with food?

Effective wine matching easier than you think

There’s a lot of noise about going vegan in the media right now and included in this are vegan wines. However, it’s not really a new thing to have vegan wines available. Today there are lots of wines that are made in such a way that makes them suitable vegans, and they’ve been around for a while.

The main requirement for vegan wines is that they are made with no animal products used. The usual animal-derived products used in wine production include isinglass (fish bladder), milk protein and egg whites, which are used during the clarification process known as ‘fining’.

Look at the label

As with any other wine preference, the easiest way to tell whether a wine is vegan is to check the label. Many producers include the information clearly on the label, and online wine sellers will also specific. For people who are concerned about additives used in wine-making, there are also lots of organic wines available that are not fined during manufacturing.

When selecting vegan wine, it’s also important to consider the food you’re eating. If you are on a diet consisting of plant derivatives, and you’re not ingesting large portions of protein, then robust red wines aren’t necessary when matching wine with food.

Pairing with vegan food

While vegan dishes don’t have great portions of protein, obviously they can still have huge flavours. However, the flavours in vegan dishes don’t tend to tame the tannin in wine in the way that dairy and meat does.

With this in mind, vegans looking for the ideal wine for their dinner party should steer towards lighter wines. This is particularly the case if dishes are also light in carbs and consist of mostly vegetables, fruit and salad.

Light reds are always a good option, such as the frappato grape from Sicily. Frappato di Vittoria always produces grapey but light wines, which work well with healthy, fresh food. An Aussie red that works brilliantly with veg based dishes is Gertie Cabernet Franc Clare Valley, which has an exuberant, light flavour.

Effective wine matching is a lot to do with personal taste. What works for one vegan cook won’t work for another. However, the good news for vegans and vegetarians looking to exclude animal products from their tipple, is that there are loads of options available at all price points.

The most expensive wines in the world from 2018

Last year was a record-breaker for wine auctions, leading to some spectacular sales of the most expensive wines in the world. In October 2018, auction house Sotheby’s sold a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti for an extraordinary $558,000. This was more than 17 times the highest pre-auction estimate of $32,000.

Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby’s Wine, says: “The new world-record established in today’s sale is further proof that the demand for wine and spirits of exceptional quality is at an all-time high, and that global collectors are willing to go the extra mile to acquire the rarest bottles of any kind.”

Most expensive wines of 2018

Using data from the Wine-Searcher database, here are a few more of the most expensive wines on the global market.

Domaine Romanee-Conti (or ‘DNC’ as it’s known to wine collectors), always reaches the highest prices in the wine world. Based in Burgundy, its top vineyard covers only 4.5 acres. With an average price of $19,702, the maximum price was the above-mentioned $558,000.

The priciest white wine in the world is Egon Muller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, from Germany’s Mosel region. The Muller family have been making wines in their Mosel vineyards since 1797. At an average price of $13,220, this Riesling has gone for $33,883.

A very old, fortified wine from Portugal, JS Terrantez Madeira, sells for a maximum of $9,499 with an average selling point of $8,285. Still drinkable, this wine was made in the same year that Thomas Jefferson made his second term as US President in 1804.

Biodynamic farming techniques behind expensive wines

Another offering from Burgundy’s Domaine Leroy, the Musigny Grand Cru is made using biodynamic farming. With an average price of $19,702, the maximum it has reached is $551,314.

Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru has an average price of $12,882 with a maximum of $25,222. The Roumier territory was established in 1924 by Georges Roumier. When he died in 1965, his grandchildren Christophe and Jean-Marie Roumier took over and today the estate consists of 28.5 acres in the Corton-Charlemagne, Morey Saint-Denis and Chambolle-Musigny regions of Burgundy in France.

These are just some of the most expensive wines from last year. It will be fascinating to see which wines make the 2019 list.

How wine producers are protecting the industry’s longevity

Concerns about the impact of climate change on wine production are growing. Consumers are increasingly interested in the sustainability credentials of wine producers around the world as producers work to protect the wine industry’s longevity through sustainability.

The impact of climate change varies from region to region, prompting wine producers to come up with ever more innovative ways to combat the challenges ahead.

Challenges facing wine producers

Major Italian winery Zonin 1821 have long been working on various initiatives to promote a green production culture. Its estates in Tuscany, Rocca di Montemassi and Castello di Albola, were two of the first wave of wineries in Italy to gain the Equalitas Certification. This focuses on the economic, social and environmental longevity and sustainability of wine producers in Italy and is supported by the Union of Italian Wine Companies (UIV).

In order to achieve the certification, Italian wineries must prove the impact of their production activities. These include pest management, footprint of water use, carbon footprint, community interaction, biodiversity and the social impact of the business. Chief winemaker at Zonin1821, Stefano Ferrante, says: “With water saving, our estates use the drip irrigation method managed by the Vintel digital programme, which allows rationalised irrigation based on forecast weather. Special pressure chambers allow the level of hydration of individual vines to be measured, guaranteeing irrigation only when necessary.”

Sustainability in supporting industries

While making the wine itself is a massive part of the industry, there are also many other parts to a bottle of wine. Portuguese-based Amorim & Irmaos create cork and stoppage solutions for bottles. Naturally, sustainability is also a major factor in this sector’s work too.

Director of marketing Carlos de Jesus says: “Sustainability is at the heart of our entire operation, starting with the fact that cork oaks are a natural and native species to the areas where we source our raw material.”

The company makes the most environmentally friendly, natural bottle closure products possible, and prides itself on its sustainable production methods. He says: “We provide the best solutions for any winery seeking to improve their sustainability credentials. After all, if they are working hard to offer sustainability produced wines for eco-conscious retailers and consumers, then the closure must be real cork. Ease of recycling is becoming a key issue.”

Key methods for sustainability

Many wineries are increasingly focusing on actively working with the characteristics of the region they work in. A holistic approach to the surrounding environment has been underway for Bodega Ijalb winery, based in Rioja, since 1998 when it became the very first officially organic winery in the region.

Chief winemaker Pedro Salguero says: “The water used in the winery has been purified and gathered to hydrate the vineyards and refrigerate the tanks during fermentation. The stems from pruning are used to fertilise our vineyards. We’re lowering our carbon footprint by reducing the weight of our glass bottles and the thickness of our packaging.”

The needs of each winery depend on where they are based, and how climate change is affecting their regions. Waverley Hills winery in South Africa is located in the Western Cape. This area receives about 550mm of rain, compared with 770mm in Burgundy, France. Conserving irrigation water is therefore a priority, which the estate has been tackling for the past seven years. In 2013, Waverley began laying shade cloth directly on the vineyard soil, which blocks out the sun and stops weeds growing. As the cloth is permeable, water can get through to the roots of the vines, and it also stop evaporation helping to maintain cool, soft soil. All of this preserves the amount of water needed to irrigate the vines.

These are just some of the measures being taken by wine makers around the world, in a bid to maintain an industry threatened by changes in global weather patterns.