What is it about Valentine`s Day that makes otherwise sane and level-headed people sit in a room with a whole lot of others for an overpriced dinner, or buy a bottle of overpriced rosé champagne to drink at home?
Rosé champagne, not to beat about the bush, is a rip-off, generally priced higher than a standard non-vintage simply by virtue of having some red wine blended in. Nevertheless, we still know it will go down well, proof that we`ve not lost touch with our inner romantic.
There is, of course, own-label pink fizz such as Sainsbury`s very decent Rosé Champagne (£21.99; 12% abv), but it`s not going to look as impressive as Lanson or Laurent Perrier, names our beloved is likely to recognise and know we`ve splashed the cash.
If you are strong-minded enough to resist the champagne cliche, what are the alternatives? Well, there`s English fizz, such as the very attractive Gusbourne Sparkling Rosé 2010 (12% abv), which Oddbins reckons is for "slipping a ring on a finger", but, at £31, it`s much the same price as the real thing (Lea & Sandeman have it for £29.95). That said, cava looks cheap and prosecco`s hardly special-occasion these days.
Personally, I would stick to New World fizz, which is much more sharply priced and at least has a smart contemporary look. The best buy without a doubt is a South African rosé called Pongracz (12% abv) that tastes of crushed strawberries and totally looks the part, down to the Krug-shaped bottle. If you`re lucky enough to live near Spalding in Lincolnshire, you can buy it from Charterhouse Wine Co for £9.58 a bottle; the Champagne Company has it for £11.95 and, from Monday, Morrisons will sell it for £10.99 (it normally charges a cheeky £14.99).
Also from South Africa, there`s Graham Beck Brut Rosé (12% abv), which admittedly has a somewhat prosaic name but comes in a handsome bottle and has a delicious soft strawberries-and-cream flavour. It`s selling at Majestic at £9.99 when you buy two or more bottles, which allows you to be romantic on other occasions, too.
Finally, the delicate, pretty, pale Jansz Premium Rosé (12.5% abv) is a consistently reliable sparkler from Tasmania that`s mainly available in indies such as Hailsham Cellars (£13.25), winedirect.co.uk (£14.95), Edgmond Wines in Shropshire and Fraziers (both £14.99); Ocado has it, too, but charges £16.
Prices for all fizz are likely to fluctuate in the runup to Valentine`s Day, so do check before you buy.