A few years ago I was on a Winter wine-buying trip with 3 colleagues (2 male and 1 female) and completely overlooked the significance of the 14th February when booking our hotel rooms in Sanary-sur-Mer. The receptionist had diligently asked me if I would like to reserve a table in the hotel’s restaurant and I had rashly responded that I would not. This was a decision that I repented at leisure as the 4 of us scoured the streets of Sanary and were turned away from hostelry after hostelry with the increasingly familiar refrain of “Désolé, complet, complet”. Romance, it seems is alive and well on the Côte d’Azur!
Just as we were getting footsore, hungry and despondent I caught the eye and ear of the doorman at the Café Trinidad who indicated that he might just be able to find us a table. In the end it transpired that he found us 2 tables for 2 in opposite corners of the packed restaurant. That is how I came to find myself sitting opposite our shop manager, hearty Welshman, Meirion Williams, with a red rose on the table and the race-card of the obligatory Menu Saint Valentin in my hand. Perhaps we attracted a few sideways glances but they’re a cosmopolitan crowd on the Riviera and to be fair to Mei I’ve had worse dates.
I can’t remember exactly what we ate that evening but do recall that we kicked-off with a glass of pink fizz – which is the default option for romantic imbibing. I’m not sure why we turn to rosé in the middle of Winter, other than for aesthetic reasons but I suppose that is sufficient justification. Sparkling rosé is a broad church ranging from Cava, which can be found for less than £10 in any supermarket to luxury cuvées of Champagne (such as Krug and Dom Perignon) that will take you well into 3 figures. In my, highly biased, opinion lesser-known Champagnes from independent producers offer the best value for money. The rosé champagne we list at Yapp Brothers, made by our chum Gilles Dumangin from a blend of 50% Chardonay, 40% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier has a lovely coral-pink colour, crushed berry scents and flavours and a very fine mousse. It’s a bargain at £29.50 a bottle. Gille’s star is clearly in the ascendant as his ‘Grande Réserve’ was the Champagne de choix for Sir Paul McCartney’s recent nuptials. All you need is love. And Champagne. And not to forget that it is sodding Valentine’s day on the 14th February.
(This article first appeared in Country Calling, 7th February 2012)