The question in my mind has always been, “Would St. Valentine like the ‘modern’ style of commemoration of his feast day?”

We will never know, of course, with him having the discourtesy to die around 273 A.D. The Roman Emperor Claudius II, who liked Valentinus up to the point where the priest demanded the Emperor convert to Christianity, gave the order to his legion to get serious about dealing with this priest. That may be the story.

Was Valentine one guy or a compilation of a few dedicated priests? Was he the Bishop of Rome or of several small villages in Umbria, Italy?  The legend is that Valentinus would occasionally marry couples in the attempt to assist the men in avoiding military service to Rome – because marred dudes were excused from the obligation.

If you look to the Catholic Church for definition and affirmation, you are going to be let down. That august body of worshippers removed St. Valentine’s Day, as a feast day to honor this particularly holy man, from the General Roman Calendar in 1969. Maybe he was all we think he was, but records in the third century are sketchy and not historically provable.

Nevertheless, there are churches, even a cathedral or two, bearing Valentine’s name all over Europe (except for none located Great Britain).

Be that as it may, it’s odd that Valentinus is not the patron saint of restaurant and bar owners. Those service institutions do a lot of business on Feb. 14.

My normal suggestion would be to exchange proper gifts and messages of love with your precious partner, but don’t head out on Feb. 14 for drinks and dinner. Every restaurant in town will be jammed, and sometimes they are not able to deliver their best effort.

So, on Tuesday, Feb. 14, get involved with each other over a bottle of bubbly wine, and move the date of the “date” to another time.

That would be my normal suggestion. But keep in mind, this year New Orleans is hosting the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game at the Smoothie King Center. While the game is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 19, there are a lot of events and celebrations leading up to the contest.  

This means that your romantic and intimate celebration of Valentine’s Day likely should occur on the weekend before Feb. 14. Then again, the Krewe du Vieux will stage their annual procession on Saturday, Feb. 11. In effect, you are bracketed between a great Carnival party and a sports event of national proportions.

Tough to be all lovey-dovey under those circumstances. But, readers, don’t think for a second that what is happening around town relieves you from your obligation to show love to your special someone. Even with the knowledge that this is a day dedicated to a Catholic saint who may or may not have been all he has been cracked up to be for almost 20 centuries will not be enough to excuse you from doing your duty to your love.

Sweet irony of life!

Nothing, however, says celebration and “I love you” like wine with bubbles. Depending on your budget, here are a few I can recommend, and they are all readily available:

 

Champagne

There is no great substitute for the real deal. Also, there is nothing that costs more. Keep in mind that it’s not just the product. You are making a statement of love and commitment here. Act accordingly.

  • Henriot
  • Taittinger
  • Moёt & Chandon
  • Perrier Jouёt
  • Tribaut

 

Sparkling Wine

Moving down the price-point scale just a bit, American Sparkling Wine is quite good, usually made in the same method as Champagne, and often comes from a “house” that is really French at its core.

  • Domaine Carneros
  • Roederer
  • Mumm Napa
  • Domaine Chandon
  • Schramsberg

 

Prosecco

Over the past 10 years, the Italians have made great quality strides in the production of Prosecco, a sparkling wine from the Veneto region around the town of Verona. Prosecco is one of the hottest-selling wine styles in the world today.

  • Prosecco Rustico Nino Franco
  • Mionetto
  • La Marca
  • Zardetto

 

There are some very good Spanish sparkling wines, known as cava, on the market today. But since I feel the above-noted areas and wines are of better quality, I will refrain from recommending the Spanish versions.

I recommend you purchase brut, a rough-measure as to the sugar level in the wine and the most popular style of Champagne and sparkling wine. Particularly when you arrive at the lower cost wines, sometimes they are too sweet and are lacking in true character with a load of sugar interfering with the wine.

I further urge you to consider “pink” wines, rosé. The good ones are not stupid-sweet, but possess excellent body and balance. Here again, price is a real gauge.

My mantra is that there really is no other category of wine like sparkling, where price is an excellent indicator of quality.  Don’t go cheap. Pay the quality price for a good product. There will be no regrets or questions about your selection at the wrong time.

 

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Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at www.wgso.com. Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/