Tom Cannavan's   

Popping the Cork, or Popping the Question?

Romance is in the air this Valentine's month, with the cooing of turtle doves and the twang of Cupid's bow drowning-out the usual clatter of the word-processor as I write this piece. Our food theme is romantic too, so what wine should you serve with an intimate dinner; perhaps on the 29th with an important question waiting to be asked? Pink fizz is always suitable for such an occasion, but make it a good one like the finest rosé Champagne from Billecart-Salmon at £26.99 in Oddbins. A modest £10 or so buys the lovely Cuvée Napa rosé, made by Mumm in California and widely available. Perhaps the most aptly named wine for the occasion is St. Amour, a silky red from the Beaujolais. This is a "Cru" Beaujolais from a top village - a world removed from cheap and cheerful Beaujolais Nouveau.

UK stockist are given, with prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)


Domaine de Pontcher Tourraine Sauvignon 1998
Lively, fresh nose of gooseberry and exotic lychees. Crisp on the palate, it is dominated by zippy pear and apple fruit with a tangy lemon and herb acidity in the finish. This will cut through the creamy risotto very nicely. Majestic £4.99.

Organic Soave Superiore 1998
A classic Italian wine for a classic Italian dish. This has a lovely honeyed richness and floral edge to ripe pear and citrus fruit. Quite full on the palate, there are layers of peachy fruit and fine acidity. A cracking Soave. Tesco £4.99.


Capelands Ruby Cabernet 1998
From sunny South Africa comes a wine filled with blackcurrant and red berry fruit, but also a suitably earthy quality. On the palate it is easy to drink, the fruit is simple and forward yet there's enough tannin to keep it fresh. Peckham's £3.99.

Chianti San Vito 1997
What a wonderful Chianti this is. A gorgeous nose crammed with juicy black cherries, nutmeg, tobacco and polished-wood leads on to a palate brimming with succulent, crunchy black fruits. But there's also a definite spark from a bitter plum-skin edge and grippy tannins. Safeway £6.99.

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
Sumptuously rich cassis aromas rise from the glass with this Californian wine. There are super-sweet violet notes and plenty of vanillin oak. The palate strikes a fine balance between unctuous fruit and a bitter-sweet firmness. The finish is long and lip-smacking. Bottom's Up/Oddbins £8.99.


Bonterra Muscat 1998
Love-heart sweets spring to mind on nosing this flowery, peach and mango scented wine, which is rather appropriate. There are nuances of darker, rum-soaked sultanas too. The palate is deliciously sweet, with honeyed peaches and light, zipping acidity. Modest in alcohol at only 8.5%, it would be perfect with this month's passion fruit dessert. Oddbins £6.99 per half bottle.