I used to think that going out on Valentine’s Day was something that only proper couples did but, from the number of press releases I get from bars and restaurants, I now see that it is meant to be something you do as part of the early courtship process. The idea is that following a couple of flirtatious moments discussing your expenses with Jane from accounts, you attempt to seal the deal by taking her to Yates’s Wine Lodge for their special Valentine’s Day evening.
My advice is don’t! Valentine’s Day is the worst night of the year to go out. Restaurants have special (the only thing special about them is the price) menus, the service will be terrible and you’ll be surrounded by couples who have run out things to say to each other or worse, awkward first dates.
I don’t think we British have quite got the hang of ‘dating’. The idea that you ask someone you barely know out for a drink or meal to see whether there might be some kind of sexual spark is an alien concept to us. Traditional British ‘dating’ involves going out and getting drunk with a group of friends and if you are lucky you might end up in bed with a friend of a friend or even a friend. Then if you still like the look of each other the morning after, you are ‘going out’.
Alcohol is the crucial ingredient. Though you might not want to imitate a friend who on Valentine’s Day took his date to a cheap pub where they got hammered on the drink invented by Alan Partridge: the ladyboy – a pint of beer and a gin and tonic with a Bailey’s chaser. Far better to stay in, cook something simple and drink something delicious. This isn’t the time for your old clarets, or that difficult “natural wine” you’ve been saving. You want something to stir the soul not to pontificate about.
I’d start with the Jansz Wine Company Premium Rosé Brut NV (Oddbins, £17.50) It’s a tremendously sophisticated pink-tinged fizz made from the three champagne grape varieties but in Tasmania and like a good rosé champagne it smells of strawberries and tastes of oranges and biscuits.
Next I have a red from the southern Rhône. It’s from Domaine de la Mordorée the best producer in the little-known appellation of Lirac. Their Cuvee de La Reine 2014 (£21.95, Lea & Sandeman) may taste perfumed and elegant, but it’s so strong, 15%, that it will have you giggling like teenagers in no time. Just the thing to relax buttoned-up Englishmen.
If you can feel yourself fading then open a bottle of the Peter Jakob Kühn Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett 2015 (Tanners, £15.50), a wine that is much easier to drink than to say. It’s the opposite of the Lirac, it’s an invigorator, enlivening the mind and the palate with the delicate scent of apple blossom and only 10% alcohol.
And, finally, few can resist the lure of a good Armagnac. The Baron de Sigognac 10 year old (Whisky Exchange, £33.95) is incredibly rich and spicy with aromas of dried fruits, tobacco and walnuts. It’s delicious with tarte tatin, blue cheese or just on its own whilst gazing woozily into someone’s eye. And so to bed. After all that you might be too boozy for sexy stuff but whatever happens at least you will have avoided the Valentine’s menu at Yates’s Wine Lodge.