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Wines for Valentine’s Day | David Williams

Bird in Hand Sparkling, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2020 (£11.99, Waitrose) The whole Valentine’s business is no doubt a little daft, even cynical. C

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Bird in Hand Sparkling, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2020 (£11.99, Waitrose) The whole Valentine’s business is no doubt a little daft, even cynical. Certainly, its commercial demands are hard to square with the thing it’s supposed to celebrate. Is it really necessary to buy a nylon heart-shaped cushion to say I love you? And are we somehow less romantic if we serve our loved one a bottle of red rather than the love industry-mandated sparkling rosé? Well, of course not, but I still reckon there’s something especially sensuous about the combination of bubbles and the various shades of rosé – from pale red and vivid, luminous pink, to a wine such as Bird in Hand’s sparkling combination of pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz, which has just the slightest hint of colour, as if a pipette of raspberry juice had been added to a bottle of white sparkling wine. In taste, that red cherry-berry flavour is more involved, although still delicate, in a wine with finely sculped bubbles and a clean, crisp style.

Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage, Champagne, France NV (from £40, WoodWinters; Averys) For a deeper colour and flavour of seductive pink bubbles, the Champagne house of Piper Heidsieck is a consistently excellent source. Piper’s very own Sauvage is aptly named in that its flavours remind me a little of the fruit of a bramble bush – with a hit of wild blackberries, alongside cherries and a tangy, orange or grapefruit citrus note. It’s deeply flavoured, but zesty-fresh enough to not feel in any way clumsy. Piper also makes a superb-value rosé fizz in a similar vein under contract for The Co-op supermarket: Les Pionniers Rosé Champagne NV (£22, The Co-op), is, again, vividly red-fruited, succulent but racy and attractively dry. For a touch of the sublime, meanwhile, few pink champagnes reach the heights obtained by Piper’s sister house, Charles Heidsieck. The CH house style (white and pink) inclines to the deep and savoury paired, in a wine such Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV (£49.80, Hedonism), with subtle red fruit and scintillating fine-line acidity.

Nyetimber Rosé, Sussex, England NV (from £39.95, Jeroboams; Waitrose; Nyetimber) Having mastered the art of white fizz, the English sparkling wine community is making some truly impressive rosé fizz, too, these days. I was very impressed by a recent launch from Kent’s Balfour Estate, Saignée 2018 (£34.99, or £29.99 as part of a case of six bottles, Majestic), which is named for the winemaking technique it uses: getting its colour from leaving the juice in contact with the red skins, rather than – as is common in sparkling pink fizz production – blending red and white wines. The resulting wine has a very appealing texture: an interplay of gentle tannin and tangy acid, with a savoury edge (herb and very subtle pepper) to the crisp, redcurrant and raspberry fruit. The rosé from England’s most established – and, arguably, still best – fine sparkling producer Nyetimber, meanwhile, is typically silky, generously flavoured (with patisserie notes of cinnamon and baked bread as well as cherries and red berries), and superbly elegant and long in the finish. A truly romantic wine.

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