How To Foolproof Your Valentine's Day Wine

Lana Bortolot - Contributor

Lana Bortolot - Contributor

The ultimate in tawnies may be this rare bottle from the world's oldest Port wine house. KOPKE

The ultimate in tawnies may be this rare bottle from the world's oldest Port wine house. KOPKE

You knew it was coming, yet, here you are on Feb. 14, holding the [*probably empty*] bag, flustered over a wine selection for the most important Hallmark Card holiday of the year.

A day fraught with expectation needn’t be if you toss away the clichés, reject convention and drink with conviction.

John Foy, a former New Jersey restaurateur with award-winning wine lists, has seen his fair share of Valentine dinners gone awry.

“The biggest mistake people make on a special night or dinner, is choosing a wine you don’t know,” he says. “It adds anxiety to the moment when your wine selection should be adding to the celebration.”

If you’re dining out, enlist the help of the sommelier and bare in mind, he says, that the bigger price tag is not always better.

“What is better on a special occasion is drinking the wine you really love—one that always brings a smile and pleasure,” Foy advises. And further to that: drink it with the one you love.

Foy, who now purchases wine for the private sector and runs The Wine Odyssey, a site specializing in both high-value and off-the-beaten path wines, says the most over hyped aspect of choosing a wine for Valentine’s Day is the belief that it’s Champagne or bust. And port—that classic seductive pairing with chocolate? A conundrum easily solved if you choose wisely.

Here are his alternate suggestions for a delicious drinking date with less stress and more value—for both the wallet and the memories.

Above and beyond expectation

The ultimate port blowout might be the special anniversary offering from Kopke, the world's oldest continually operating Port wine house. Released last year to celebrate the house's 380th (!) anniversary, the rare CNK Very Old Tawny Port wine is a blend of tawnies from the 1920s and 1930s and a Colheita (single vintage-dated) from 1900. The unique blend has been in barrel for nearly 100 years. The production was limited to 380 numbered bottles, so it's hard to find. But if you do, you'll find intense and opulent aromas, sweet baking spices, hazelnut, fig, walnut, with hints of coffee, chocolate and molasses.

Foy offers one more piece of advice for those using Valentine’s Day to winning the affections of another.