Bubbly to make your Valentine's sweetheart smile 

We may say that we’re not going to buy into the commercial aspects of yet another greeting card holiday, but come Feb. 14, those who are in a relationship feel the obligatory pings of Valentine’s Day. So, let’s just give in, plan a couple of days earlier than usual and surprise the special someone you love with a lovely bottle of ­Champagne.

Two qualifiers need be mentioned. First, high-quality Champagne does not mean the most expensive or even best vintage. Most importantly, Champagne means Champagne, as in sparkling wines made from the region of Champagne in France.

Champagne is often mistakenly used as a blanket term for all sparkling wines. Nothing irks the Champenoise more — and for good reason.

What makes Champagne special is its terroir. Located in the northeast of France, Champagne’s cold climate and chalky soil create the most complex sparkling wines in the world. While there are very high-quality sparkling wines made elsewhere, the sheer quantity of great producers is unparalleled. The big houses have the lion’s share of the market but grower-Champagne producers are making many of the most exciting wines these days.

Here are three that will make your sweetheart smile:

Roger Pouillon Champagne Brut Reserve, Black Label, NV: Champagne­ Roger Pouillon started out in 1957, when Monsieur Pouillon, a grape grower, decided to keep some of the goods for himself and bottle a Champagne under his own name. Now in the hands of his grandchildren, Champagne Roger Pouillon has expanded its production a tiny bit, but is still a small producer. Composed of 70 percent pinot noir with equal parts chardonnay and pinot meunier, this delicious and vivacious wine with apple aromas delivers crisp apple fruit on the palate, with a lingering, slightly nutty finish. Suggested retail: $55

Champagne Arlaux Brut, NV: Based in Marne, Christine Marechal is carrying on the winemaking tradition that has been in her family for more than 200 years. In total, Arlaux produces 5,000 cases of wine made from 17 acres of premier cru vineyards. Austere with malt, yeast, a hint of toast, vanilla and crisp minerality, this Champagne will dazzle the one you love. Suggested retail: $44

Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs, NV: When Jacques Diebolt and Nadia Vallois married, they gave birth to two children and one of the best estates in Cramant. A renowned village in the Cotes des Blancs, Cramant is composed entirely of chardonnay. Even though the Blanc de Blancs is not labeled as such, some of the fruit comes from this prestigious grand cru. Floral with notes of buttered brioche, minerals, cream and red apple fruit, this lively and flavorful Champagne will overcome even the least romantic with a sense of amour. Suggested retail: $44

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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