“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
I so very much want you to be happy but all I can muster to cheer you on this day of love is from The Smothers Brothers: “So much in love with us are we that you could kiss you and I could kiss me.” It’s silly, I know, but love is silly. Which is why I’m veering away for a paragraph and focussing on some dazzling wiggliness. Benham and Froud’s fancy jellies were introduced to me by a mutual friend and they are so pretty I have to include them here. Yes, they’re jellies but more like edible joy sidestepping language and going directly to emotion. Although their Valentine’s Day Prelude II kit is already sold out – I tried, honestly – it is a wobbly masterpiece designed for “at home”. Strawberry and elderflower jelly cubes, set with pâtissier’s crystal design jelly moulds and topped with edible gold leaf, this stunning jelly mould will have you forgiving your loved one for reading The Cut’s sex diaries leaving you to do all the ironing alone. Benham and Froud’s parent company Bompass and Parr have also introduced Heart Throbr, a device which makes your jelly mould flash in the rhythm of your beloved’s heart. My heart beats a little faster knowing that these jellymongers, according to their FAQ, revived the fortunes of a British company founded in 1785, one known for making the “Rolls Royce of jelly moulds”. Because love, like jelly, is only beautiful when being delightful, only luscious when spooned and, by its very nature, longs to be consumed. Silly yet profound.
It is silliness that makes love possible which is why we have wine. Wine lets you say things. It gives you something to do with your mouth and hands. Moreover, it takes the blame and the embarrassment of real feelings until you can manage it yourself. For any day of love try one of these three fabulous bottles. Rathfinny is the English sparkling wine that sucked me into the whole locally produced UK wine vortex back in my dark days of ignorance. It rescued me from thinking all English Sparkling was acidic nonsense. With a blend of 63% pinot noir, 19% chardonnay and 18% pinot meunier, Rathfinny Rosé Brut is aged on the lees for 24 months (which means lots of flavour). It’s an achievement considering the vineyard’s first vines were planted in 2012 in what is now over 200 acres of chalky South Downs soil similar to that of the Champagne region. Made in the scarce year of 2017, it delivers on sensations: cranberries and redcurrants tingle your nose before pear, strawberry and raspberry notes leap around in your mouth, leaving a lightly peppery swallow. A sophisticated fruity wine, low in sugar with 4g/l dosage, it’s not to wash down bad chocolate (I can think of at least two brands to avoid) or day-old cake. I think you see what I’m trying to say. This is a bottle you open to celebrate lurve.
Another Sussex pink – harder to find but worth seeking – is Busi-Jacobsohn Rosé 2018, built with Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. Only 7% of this fine sparkling is fermented in barrels, but enough to give it welly that other rosés ain’t got. A deep pink, it smells of candy apple, cherry and raspberry. Again, with 4.6g/l, it’s low on sugar and high on ripe red fruit tastes. A well-blended acidity zaps the palate. Personally, I like a wine that makes me feel as if I’ve had an amazing experience. Every sip from this bottle made me go, “Oooh.” The Busi-Jaconsohn estate, founded in 2015, specialises in wines for the sophisticated palate but you don’t have to have a Stradivarius mouth to enjoy this astonishingly good wine from the High Weald area of East Sussex.
For serious people – and I mean the hard-to-please – please stampede to a bottle from one of the very best medium-sized champagne houses, Billecart-Salmon. Founded in 1818 and located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Billecart-Salmon have a wowser of the very not-rosé Sous Bois. This serious champagne has been on the lees for 6 years, which reminded me of my Transcendental Meditation teacher’s advice of – “Do not sleep, drink or take drugs with anyone you don’t like”. Seems obvious that drinking puts you in a vulnerable psychic space but it was a revelatory at the time. Now, having kept this bottle for months, I opened it hesitantly. This is a bottle you don’t want to share with anyone you don’t like. Also, I’m terribly mean and like to drink my bottles but keep them too. Like cake, once it’s opened, it’s too soon gone. Well, opening this was one of the better decisions of 2021. The Sous Bois is memorable – one of the most flavoursome champagnes I have ever tasted bar none and I have tasted a lot. Vinified wholly in oak with dosage at 7g/l, Billecart-Salmon Sous Bois is a gorgeous golden colour and shows its careful breeding with the finest nonstop bubbles. Dry fruits, fresh citrus and white fruits trickle into pastry and then, of course, hints of oak. It’s creamy, talkative, complicated. Every sip sounds an orchestra of flavours and you can play your own game trying to identify them all as they swirl around in your mouth. This is champagne at its most alive. I can only hope that after Valentine’s Day you’ll never buy a bottle of ordinary champagne again, not after the Sous Bois. One additional note: do drink this bottle in an evening to maximise the lush burnt sugar and toasted brioche notes. Open it with someone who has an attention span, who isn’t wondering where the wrapped-up jewellery box is. In short, open it with the person your mother calls your friend. C