Wine - Roger Scruton suggests wines for Valentine's Day

The lively, free-flowing Valpolicella fully restored our faith in Eros

According to Christian tradition, the feast of St Valentine is the day on which you choose your mate, and a mate is not a partner who offers "recreational sex" or even "pneumatic bliss", but a lifelong companion of the opposite sex, bound to you by a sacramental tie. Lifelong companions expect to be toasted in style. If we accept the doctrine of the Church, therefore, we ought to celebrate St Valentine with something like a Lafite 1945, preceded by a bottle of Montrachet. In offering excellent but ephemeral Italians (opposite), Corney & Barrow clearly intends to endorse our modern mores, and who am I to cast the first stone? After seven years of marriage, you need a drink in any case, and if a bottle turns up on the table you would be a damned fool to reject it.

We drank the whites with Verdi's Otello - not a drama that casts marriage in a happy light, but one that is utterly rooted in the sacramental conception of sex. To have written this work at the age of more than 70, and to have surpassed Shakespeare himself in portraying Desdemona's soul and the evil of the force that destroys her, is the greatest of Verdi's many great achievements and proof of what you can do, or at any rate feel, in your twilight years. Whether the master could have risen to such heights on Pinot Grigio alone, I doubt: but this example is a crisp, light, almond-evoking wine, and a fine way to wash down the Viagra.

The Gavi is made from the awkward Cortese grape, grown on the yet more awkward chalky slopes of the Piedmont. You taste the struggle in the powerful mineral flavours. A hint of old sherry on the nose will remind women of that first unwanted hand on the knee, and men of the way they plucked up the courage to put it there. Salt tears over Desdemona improved the taste, and we finished the bottle in a state of genial dejection.

Valpolicella is a wine that is so often faked that its reputation has sunk in recent years. When genuine, however, it is both a labour of love to make and a stimulus to love in the drinking. This one comes from the home estate of the Pasqua firm, and its lively, free-flowing style fully restored our faith in Eros - which is, deep down, what Shakespeare and Verdi intended.

As for the Rosso dei Marchesi, from the historic Alfieri estate, this Barbera-Pinot Noir blend delivered such a powerful punch that only sleep could be contemplated thereafter, though we took comfort from the example of the poet, greatest of the Alfieris, whose attachment to the Countess of Albany showed what we humans are capable of, by way of passion and restraint. But why oh why did the fool give away his estates, when they could produce wine like this?

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 14 February 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The nuclear fat is in the fire