Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentine's Day alternative: Sparkling red

Looking for a sexy, unique wine for Valentine's Day?

How about a sparkling red? It's dark and sensuous, bubbly and delicious, and it's probably a special experience your mate has never had before.

I'm not talking about cheaply made Cold Duck. I'm talking about -- for the most part -- Australian sparkling Shiraz, high-quality wine that's taken seriously by winemakers down under.

Fine restaurants all over Australia stock sparkling reds. The Aussies like to have it with turkey, and it is a perfect Thanksgiving wine, mainly because it's so food-friendly. Because it's full-bodied, it's great with red meat, but because it's sparkling, it won't overpower fish and even plays nicely with shellfish.

The best of these wines are all from Australia, and there's really only one good place to order them in the US: the Internet shop JJ Buckley Fine Wines, which is where wine buyer Chuck Hayward went after leaving the Jug Shop in San Francisco. Best known for his sparse patch of long red hair flying in all directions, Chuck actually looks like a sparkling red. He's this country's biggest advocate of these wines, so fans of the genre have to follow wherever he goes.

Looking at JJ Buckley's list, the Fox Creek Vixen is always good value at $17.99, but it might not ship in time for Valentine's Day. The Majella is generally a big, ripe, fruity style, and good value at $22.99. Consider splurging $39.99 for the 2001 Galah; compared to Champagne prices, that's not expensive, and the last vintage I tasted of it was very impressive.

There is only one domestic producer of decent sparkling Shiraz that I know of: Geyser Peak Winery. You can also order this over the Internet.

You need to order now so you can get one in time for a Valentine's Day surprise. I'm a big fan, and I put my wallet where my palate is: Recently, with a few minutes in a Sydney wine shop on a stopover, I bought only four wines, and three were sparkling reds unavailable in the US. I won't tongue-tease you by describing the deliciousness of the one you can't have. Instead, I urge you to make sweet love to the one you're with.

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