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Wine Valentines

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Which brings to mind some of my favorite things: Red roses. Heart shaped boxes of candy. JEWELRY. All good. But for a holiday intended to celebrate the sweet moments, I can’t forget one of my other favorite sweet things--dessert wines.

I’ve become a not so secret admirer of dessert wines, yet realize that for even the most wine astute, dessert wines can be a love affair still to be set on fire.

Here are a few pairings for the other sweets you’ll likely encounter this February 14th.

For the heart shaped box of candy, try a Banyuls. This is a red wine made mostly from Grenache grapes grown in extreme southern France near Spain along the Mediterranean coast. This appellation brings a sweet dried berry taste to complement chocolate confections of any type.

For the crème brulee or cheesecake shared after a romantic dinner (one plate, two forks, of course….), try a Sauternes, a French sub-appellation of the Bordeaux Graves region. It’s made primarily from Semillon grapes and can have a honeyed apricot flavor. They can be expensive, which is why I was really happy to find a tasty one at Costco in Glenview for only $15.

These wines are sweet due to their grapes hanging on vines beyond harvest time to produce more sugar and in the case of Sauternes, contracting botrytis, called “noble rot” which has become the happy surprise of producing dessert wines for centuries.

And for jewelry, how about a “Ruby” Port. I still favor the ones from Portugal being a little biased for old world wines (and how the drink got its name). But Australia also boasts a Port pedigree, where there they are known in Aussie vernacular as “stickies.” These wines get their sweetness from being fortified with the addition of a spirit that arrests fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. A lot more common than Banyuls, there's a good selection of both old and new world Rubies at Binny's.

Of course, I’ve been known to forego dessert entirely for this quaffable dessert to be savored by sip rather than spoon. That will be, ultimately, your call.

So however you decide to spend this Valentine’s Day, make it sweet.

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