Column: Romantic reds for Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine’s Day next Friday and to celebrate, here are five lip-smacking red wines. My first choice is the Cono Sur Sparkling Rosé ($16.99 on sale).

Although it’s salmon-coloured, the Cono Sur is made from 100-per-cent Pinot Noir, one of the best reds. And it smells and tastes like a red. I enjoyed its fresh cherry bouquet. And there are notes of raspberry and strawberry with cranberry; what’s not to like!

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Produced in the cool southern Bio Bio Valley of Chile, there’s plenty of acidity to balance the fruity character. I was impressed with the steady stream of bubbles and the creamy texture. Although it is slightly off-dry, there’s an earthy character to add more complexity. Give Cono Sur a try; it’s a smooth and refreshing way to toast Valentine’s Day.

Moving to a real red, the Tinhorn Creek 2017 Merlot ($23.99) is a rich and smooth wine for Cupid’s Day. It’s produced from 24-year-old vines grown on prestigious Black Sage Bench in Oliver. In the glass there’s a gorgeous dark burgundy colour to admire. Decant it for an hour and this red reveals its inviting bouquet of dark fruit, sage, flowers, and toasty oak. On the palate there’s plenty of cherry and blueberry with spicy oak and cloves with medium tannins.

If you want a red that’s different and delicious, choose the 2014 Confidencial Reserva from Lisbon Portugal ($15.99). Portugal is known for being a great source of wonderful inexpensive wines that are well aged. When was the last time you were able to buy a 2014 red for under $16?

The Confidencial is one of the top wines from Casa Santa Lima and has ten confidential grapes that goes into an elegant red.

And what a nose! Sweet cherries, plums, roses, cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate -- perfect for Valentine’s Day! The medium body has ripe red fruit and soft oak along with elegant tannins and a lingering finish.

My third selection is a 2017 Errazuriz Max Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99 on sale) from Chile. American wine critic James Suckling gives it 92 points and I agree this is a first class red! Cab Sauv can often be recognized by its cassis or black currant character and the Max has a lots of this fruit in the nose and taste.

Suckling writes, “The currant and flower-leaf aromas are pungent here, yet they’re not overdone. Medium to full body and juicy fruit. Round tannins. Hints of walnuts. Firm yet very drinkable. Drink or hold!"

Speaking of chocolate, red wine is often said to go well with chocolate. Many critics suggest that instead of milk chocolate, go for a dark chocolate with 80-per-cent cacao. What I suggest is you try each of these four recommendations with milk chocolate, dark chocolate with low cacao content, and finally dark chocolate with 80-per-cent cacao.

As a final suggestion, try a Tawny Port such as Graham’s 10 Year Old ($38.99). It’s made from Portuguese red grapes that are fortified with brandy. As it ages for a decade in oak casks, the port loses its red colour and acquires a tawny or orange-brown colour. It’s like crème bruleéin a glass. Serve chilled and indulge with some chocolate! Truly, nectar of the gods!

Eric Hanson is a life-long Richmond resident who has been reviewing wine for four decades.

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