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No matter your take on Valentine’s Day, it’s as good an excuse as any to pop open a great bottle of wine—whether you’re sharing it with someone else or not. After tasting and evaluating several hundred wines over the past year, we’ve narrowed it down to the best for Valentine’s Day, from a deep, rich Croatian varietal to drink with dinner to a number of sparkling wines from around the world (including Champagne, of course), a classic yet perhaps lesser-known Hungarian dessert wine, and a natural Sicilian wine with a fascinating story behind it.
Here are our best wine picks for Valentine’s Day this year.
Best Overall: Aperture 2018 Bordeaux Red Blend, Sonoma, California
If you’re a Bordeaux lover with an open mind (and a penchant for a pretty bottle), you’ll love Aperture Cellars, a Sonoma winery dedicated to making some of the best Bordeaux-style wines you can find outside of Bordeaux. One of our favorites is the 2018 Bordeaux Red Blend—available in both a standard 750-milliliter bottle as well as in magnum format—which is objectively delicious and received a whopping 96-point rating from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate thanks to its complexity, velvety texture, balance, and notes of bright berry, cured meats, and tobacco on the nose. Drink this high-alcohol wine with a rich, hearty meal, like a roast or a stew.
For an even more thoughtful date night experience, you can also book a virtual tasting experience on the Aperture website, which is complimentary with the purchase of your selected tasting set—just make sure there’s plenty of food to pair as well as some quality bottle stoppers as a party of two is unlikely to finish any of the available selections in one sitting (the smallest tasting order is a three-bottle pack).
Best Splurge: Louis Roederer x Philippe Starck Brut Nature 2009
Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature is forever one of our favorites when it comes to Champagne. An ongoing collaboration between winemaker Frédéric Rouzaud and designer Philippe Starck, this bone-dry Champagne (along with its equally dry sister rosé) is, quite simply, an awesome Champagne. For those unfamiliar with the Champagne sweetness scale, the term “Brut Nature,” which is also referred to as Zero Dosage or Brut Zero, is the driest style of Champagne at less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter. That said, the minimal sugar in the drier categories translates to an unobstructed taste of true terroir, second only to licking the chalky soil of the region.
The 2009 Louis Roederer Brut Nature vintage is particularly incredible: It’s intense and striking on the nose and palate, and you can expect quirky florality, bright citrus, slight spiciness, and delicate complexity. Plus, it comes in a snazzy gift box and is generally under $100, making it relatively approachable to those who want to invest in a great bottle and try something different in one go.
Added sugar is a totally normal component of Champagne and the amount per liter determines which sweetness category any bottle falls into. For reference, the Champagne sweetness scale looks like this in order of driest to sweetest: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Dry/Sec (off-dry), Demi-Sec, and Doux.
Best Red: Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California
When we first tasted this wine, we did a bit of a double-take—for a pinot noir, the red wax-dipped single-vineyard Belle Glos Clark & Telephone is rather round, cushy, velvety, and full of deep red berry notes and generous baking spices. You’ll mostly find the 2018 vintage, which is excellent, but we’d recommend buying whichever year you get your hands on and pouring yourself (and your date, if applicable) a glass with dinner. You can find the full 2018 tasting notes here.
Best Rosé: Finca Nueva Rosado 2018, Rioja, Spain
Contrary to popular belief, rosé isn’t just a warm-weather wine—in fact, many wine pros and enthusiasts drink it all year long. One of our current favorite regions for fun rosés is La Rioja in northern Spain, where the iconic red of the same name is produced.
While there are many great and affordable Rioja rosés to choose from, the Finca Nueva stands out among the crowd, especially given its perfect balance between Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes (two of the main grape varieties that go into Rioja reds). Finca Nueva’s 2018 Rosado is light in body, pale pink in color, and maintains a crisp dryness through its super-juicy berry and tropical fruit notes and inviting spiciness.
Best Sweet: Sandeman 10-Year Aged Tawny Port
Dessert wines are much more versatile than one might think. For example, this super-approachable tawny Port can be used to make a rich dessert cocktail, such as a classic Flip, or it can be paired with a variety of dessert dishes from creamy blue cheese to a nutty, dense cake or other baked good. Sandeman is a great Port producer that’s been in the game for literal centuries; this ten-year tawny expression is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of older Ports and is full of notes of citrus zest, dried fruits, and a gentle nuttiness characteristic of the category. Just be sure to chill this bottle lightly before serving.
Best White: Tiefenbrunner MERUS Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige, Italy
Fun fact: Most people associate the aromatic Gewürztraminer grape (and thus the varietal) with Alsace and Germany, but the name actually is thought to be tied to the northern Italian commune of Tramin within the greater Alto Adige region, which is also referred to as South Tyrol. If you were to pick up any old bottle of Gewürz at the store without doing a bit of research on the differences between producing regions, you might end up with something a bit too sweet and perhaps even syrupy, but such is not the case with northern Italian Gewürztraminers. Reliably, these white wines boast beautiful, bright acidity and minerality thanks to their generally high-altitude vines.
Delicate in aroma with interesting texture, the full-bodied Tiefenbrunner MERUS is a great example of what Alto Adige has to offer, and at under $20, it’s tough to beat the price for a white wine of this quality. Drink nice and cold as an apéritif or with seafood dishes.
Best Value: Terra Madre 2016 Plavac Mali Premium Komarna, Southern Dalmatia, Croatia
You might be sleeping on Croatian wines, but this pick is sure to wake you up. Native hybrid grape variety Plavac Mali (a descendant of ancient zinfandel) is the perfect place to start. Known for their richness and robustness, Plavac Mali wines are generally a powerful window into the country’s terroir, particularly along the Dalmatian Coast, and this particular bottle is quite the deal at under $40. You can expect notes of vanilla, subtle smoke, and fresh and dried fruits on the palate with the Terra Madre Plavac Mali 2016 vintage, making it a perfect pairing option for anything from an Instagram-worthy gigantic charcuterie plate to tomatoey pasta dishes and even a bitter dark chocolate bar, ganache, or mousse.
Best Orange: Tevza "Crazy Alive" Chinuri, Kartli, Georgia
If you have yet to delve into the world of Georgian wines, you honestly haven’t lived (to be clear, we’re referring to the country of Georgia and not the state). This amber (or orange) wine is the ultimate intro to native Georgian grape varieties, the country’s distinct winemaking styles, and the orange wine category as a whole. Winemaker Goga Tevzadze of Tevza Winery aims to get the Kartli region’s indigenous grapes out into the world, among them the Chinuri white grape variety, which is known for its high acidity and distinct golden color.
For context, orange/amber wines can generally be described as making a white wine in the style of a red wine, meaning the wine sees some form of contact with the grape skins during production. At Tevza, this Chinuri is hand-harvested and directly crushed into qvevri (traditional large clay vessels), where wild (or spontaneous) fermentation takes place and the skins are left to macerate for four to six weeks. You’ll most likely find the 2019 vintage available for purchase; this is a fun, funky wine with robust body, aromas of freshly-cut grass, and notes of sea salt, honeyed stone fruits, and subtle citrus.
Best Natural: Halarà IGT Terre Siciliane Rosso 2019, Sicily, Italy
During a Zoom tasting at beloved Brooklyn eatery Have & Meyer in late 2020, we had the pleasure of chatting with the team behind new Sicilian winery concept Halarà. Sicily has long been known for its distinct grape varieties and varietals/blends thereof (hello, Nero D’Avola), but there’s something special about what Halarà is doing. Essentially, a group of natural winemaking friends got together to save a dying vineyard and revive the 40-year-old vines bearing two relatively obscure native grapes: Parpatto (or Quattro Rappe) and Cataratto.
While the organic vineyard is located in Marsala, these guys aren’t making the fortified wine—instead, they’re concentrating on a dry red (rosso), a rosato, and a forthcoming white. While the 2019 rosso and rosato are both objectively delicious, the rosso is made from 100 percent Parpatto and is a total delight, perfect for those who enjoy discovering new and unique varietals.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Wine writer and certified sommelier Céline Bossart is obsessed with all things vinous, from the bottles themselves to great glasses, gadgets, storage methods, and everything in between. Her picks for the best Valentine’s Day wines are carefully researched and selected based on quality, producer, geographical diversity, and more.