Wine of the Week

Love potions

"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness –

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"

Precise fidelity to Omar Khayyám's original Persian poetry aside, Edward FitzGerald's transmogrification of the "Quatrain XII" in 1859 placed a lasting phrase into the quotation books of the world.

In this light, how about spending the day with your valentine, communing in the wilderness with a book of poetry and a little wine and bread? We can't predict the weather, but for sunny and warm, a picnic at any of the area parks would be perfect. If the weather is bad, huddle around a fireplace and pretend.

Like love, the bread should be both strong and sensuous, perhaps a ciabatta from your favorite local bakery. For a book of verses, get The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time (Warner Books) by Leslie Pockell, a splendid annotated guide through the poetry of love over the past seven centuries.

That leaves us with the jug of wine, and luckily, a few decent jug wines have started to appear on the market. Blame the international wine glut, but we're in a kind of golden age for inexpensive jug wines. The California wine company Three Thieves is a perfect example. For $10.99, you get a 1-liter jug with a cute little finger holder on the side and fresh, fruity wine on the inside. Three Thieves offers straightforward wine of exceptional quality, sacrificing a little complexity for easy drinkability. Look for their zinfandel, syrah, and sauvignon.

Of course, the politically correct police of the poetry world say that FitzGerald's translation is wrong for a number of reasons. Not the least of which, they claim, is that Mr. Khayyám was above the lowly jug wines of the 12th century. So, other translations arrive as "gourd" or "cup" or "ruby red." Hardys Oomoo Shiraz ($14), a terrific ruby red, is a deep, rich, mouth-filling wine heaped with dark-berry and vanilla aromas. It's very ripe, sensual wine, just right for a little romance.

But nothing says romance like champagne, a wine that also pairs well with a good yeasty bread and a romantic poem. At the low end of the scale, Cristalino Rosé Sparkling Wine ($9) offers clean simplicity. On such an important holiday, why not splurge for a bottle of Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine ($29)? This wine offers a strong hint of parent company Taittinger's house style with toasty, pinot noir aromas and creamy, tiny bubbles. If you want to step up from sparkling wine to real champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé Brut NV ($39) has one of the lowest prices, but beats most others at twice the price. Like love, it is both exciting and delicate, with big strawberry flavors and subtle blackberry jam aromas.

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Three Thieves, Oomoo Shiraz, Cristalino Rose Sparkling Wine, Domaine Carneros Brut Rose Sparkling Wine, Nicolas Feuillatte Rose Brut NV

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