Saint Valentine is patron saint of lovers, beekeepers and even epileptics. Imprisoned for helping and marrying persecuted Christians, the demise of this most misunderstood of bishops was bitter: he was, accounts suggest, stoned then decapitated outside Rome’s Flaminian Gate by the order of his once friend, Emperor Claudius. Minus the gore, Valentine’s Day itself was later romanticised by Geoffrey Chaucer (who was incidentally gifted a gallon of wine a day by Edward III) in ‘Parlement of Foules’, which described birds gathering on ‘seynt valentynes day’ to choose their mates.
Fast forward to 2023, and the day is still marked by depictions of ‘lovebirds’. Here is our selection of Valentine’s Day hampers – why not raise a toast to the Saint who died so you could laze with your lover over lavish liquids…
Spirit: Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie (£99.99, Salcombe)
This double gold-garlanded pink gin (San Francisco World Spirits Competition) takes the name not of Saint Valentine, but of Marseille’s Sainte Marie lighthouse, built the same year Napoleon III commissioned the 1855 Bordeaux classification. It combines strawberries with lemon verbena, orange blossom and pink peppercorns and is distilled at The Boathouse, Salcombe. Although each hamper features an ample supply of Fever-Tree tonic – as well as copper tongs, substantial glasses and a jute bag – the gin truly thrives in a raspberry-forward, very pink Clover Club cocktail. Further emphasising nautical connections, given the distillery is only accessible by boat, 1% from each bottle sold (including within gift sets) goes to the Marine Conservation Society.
Cyder: Somerset Cheese & Cyder Hamper (£165, The Newt)
Although The Newt is the brainchild of the minds behind famed Cape winery, farm, hotel and spa, Babylonstoren, the apple is the star at their large, luxurious working estate in Somerset. Betwixt Castle Cary and Bruton you will find an apple tree maze, orchards planted with over 3,000 apple trees of 70 varieties and a state-of-the-art press at the cydery, where head cyder maker, Paul Ross and cellar master, Greg Carnell ferment drinks inspired by the golden age of cyder of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The true eye-opener in this generously loaded hamper is the half bottle of Eiswein-like Ice Cyder which takes five times the concentration of apples to produce as a dry cyder and dovetails with the included Stilton-like Bath Blue organic cows’ milk cheese.
Skin Contact: Chocolate & Wine Gift: Milk and Dark Chocolate Pairing (£44.95, Cocoa Runners)
With as deep an understanding of terroir as any good wine merchant, Cocoa Runners counts at least one former USA president amongst its regular customers who love to discover its finds. If your vinous horizons rarely went beyond putting Port or Maury with chocolate – think again. Hence this orange wax capped, amber Torontel from octogenarian vines in Chile’s Loncomilla, a remote sub-region of the Maule. Having spent eight months on its skins, this tangy, tannic, bergamot scented wine dovetails sensuously with the chosen Hogarth Buttered Toast and Sea Salt bar from New Zealand.
Something for everyone: Set the Bar Hamper – The Day Edition (£110, Harvey Nichols)
For pure indulgence at drinks o’clock on February 14, iconic London-based department store Harvey Nichols has put together a boozy hamper with a selection of savoury snacks to accompany your tipple. The collection features a bottle each of own-label Prosecco and Corbières rosé alongside The Botanist Islay dry gin – with its 22 hand-foraged botanicals – and two flavoured tonics. Presented in a classic Harvey Nichols-branded hamper, this is a gift sure to please the pickiest of Valentine.
Wines: Harrods Wine Celebration Hamper (£380, Harrods)
Brimming with a dozen bottles, this selection chosen by arguably the world’s most famous department store ought to keep love alive longer than Valentine’s Day itself. Representing Italy is the family-owned third generation Veneto winery, Pasqua whose Provence-style Y by 11 Minutes rosé is stylish and restrained while, at the other end of the spectrum, their sumptuous though not overbearing Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore is reaped from grapes which sound like sports cars, being Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone. Meanwhile, the store itself features the restaurant, ‘Pizzeria & Pasqua’ where you can enjoy a Vera Pizza Napoletana washed down with Pasqua’s Romeo e Julietta Passione & Sentimento Rosso, the label of which features lovers’ graffiti from Casa Julietta.