A boy's February 14 date is saved when his choice of two "lovers' wines" catches the fancy of his Valentine.
It was a cold February 14 when a boy and his date sat down at a restaurant. A server passed by and lit the candle, giving them a quick wink. It was a charming, local place with tables of weathered wood, vintage chandeliers, and a baby grand piano sitting unplayed in the corner, and the girl saw all of this because she was looking everywhere except at the boy.
The boy’s slightly sweaty hands were distracting him, and he was unsure of what to say. They suddenly both started to say something at once, and were saved from the embarrassing, “You go first,” exchange when the waiter came over to take their order.
When the boy looked at the wine menu, he breathed out and the tensions eased. He knew wines, and Valentine’s Day was easy. He looked at the wine list even though he already knew what he wanted to order.
“Pelaverga,” he told the waiter.
The waiter left, and the girl asked him, “What wine is that?”
He answered, “It’s a red wine from a small town in Piemonte, Italy called Verduno. It’s hard to find because just a small amount is produced each year. This is the only restaurant in town that serves it,” he added casually.
The girl looked at him instead of everywhere but him.
He was encouraged. “The locals call it basadonna, which means ‘bacia donne’ in Italian.”
“And ‘bacia donne’ means ‘kiss women’,” said the girl with a smile. “I took Italian in school.”
The boy was still too shy to mention that according to legend, this wine had aphrodisiacal powers. Its distinctive white pepper spice lend it to comparisons with peppers – black peppercorns, spicy chili pepper – all of which are purported to help blood circulation and aid in sexual prowess.
He ordered soft-shell crabs with a shellfish sauce and suggested the girl do likewise; Pelaverga is perfect with seafood, even though it is a red wine.
“It’s because it’s light and refreshing,” he told her. “But don’t let it get to your head. It’s almost always 13% alcohol or above.” They ended up finishing the bottle.
As they ate, the good food and better wine loosened tongues and relaxed tight, awkward shoulders. Soon it was time for dessert.
He ordered a strawberry and mascarpone tart and she a chocolate lava cake with fresh raspberries and whipped cream. “And,” he said before the waiter left, “some Brachetto d’Acqui, please.”
“You know I’m curious,” said the girl. “What’s Brachetto d’Acqui?”
“It’s a dessert wine,” he said.
“Like … what’s that one … Moscato d’Asti?”
“Similar. They’re both sparkling, aromatic, sweet, and low in alcohol. But Brachetto is red, and they taste different from one another.”
“Any special reason why you chose it?” she asked.
At that moment the bottle was brought over, the cork popped, and a ruby-red wine was poured into their glasses. “It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed, and sniffed, closing her eyes and smiling in pleasure.
“There is a reason,” he said. “It’s famous.”
Her eyes popped open. “Really?”
“It was Cleopatra’s aphrodisiac of choice,” he said in a low voice. “Julius Caeser and Mark Antony both loved it – though it was called Vinum Acquenese back in the day – and requested that cases of wine were sent to Egypt ahead of their arrivals. Well, I guess it was sent in wineskins or gourds, not exactly cases. Cleopatra loved it so much she used it to seduce her lovers and kindle their passion.”
She smiled, her eyes glinting off the reflected candlelight playing on her glass of ruby red Brachetto d’Acqui. She rose her glass. “I can toast to that.”
“Cheers,” said the boy, and he smiled back and they clinked their glasses.
Verduno Pelaverga DOC
Pelaverga is a red wine named after a small town in the Langhe, made from a minimum of 85% Pelaverga grape and 15% of other black, non-aromatic grapes from the region. Produced in small quantities, its vineyards are only grown in 9 hectares in this small zone. Well-balanced with soft tannins, it gives the false impression of being light – in reality, the alcohol content rarely dips below 13%. Its signature tasting note is the distinctive spice of white pepper, and it also has notes of raspberry and liquorice. In the mouth, it has well-structured tannins and finishes with a zest of acidity.
Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG
Brachetto is a low-alcohol, aromatic, sparkling dessert wine, true ruby red in color, made from 100% of the Brachetto grape. It has a feminine bouquet of rose and raspberries, and is medium-bodied with balanced tannins and a refreshing zing of acidity in the end. It pairs particularly well with chocolate, fruit tarts and pies, traditional Italian cookies like amaretti, and other desserts.