Whether you’re planning on cooking a romantic meal from scratch or you have dinner reservations at an upscale restaurant, a fine bottle of wine can make your Valentine’s Day celebration all the more memorable. Thoughtfully planned Valentine’s Day food and wine pairings are a simple way to personalize this holiday and create lasting memories with the person you love.
However, even the most experienced wine enthusiasts sometimes struggle with finding the best food and wine pairings for a Valentine’s Day meal. There are just so many different delicious wine options to choose from: elegant Burgundy Pinot Noir, sweet Sauternes, bold California Cabernet Sauvignon, bubbly Champagne—the list is almost endless. To help you decide which wine to serve, we’ve put together this detailed guide to some of our favorite go-to food pairings for this romantic holiday.
Choosing a Memorable Wine for Valentine’s Day
Many people believe that you have to follow a few basic pairing rules whenever you serve wine with dinner and dessert:
- Serve red wines with red meat or heavy dishes.
- Serve white wines and Champagne with poultry, fish, or vegetables.
- Serve sweet wines with dessert.
Some of the most memorable pairings are the unexpected ones.
While these guidelines are true in many cases, they’re not hard and fast rules. In fact, if you only follow these guidelines, you may miss out on finding the perfect Valentine’s Day food and wine pairings. Some of the most memorable pairings are the unexpected ones. For example, a bottle of Bollinger, like the 2002 Bollinger R.D. Extra Brut, goes perfectly with chocolate-covered pretzels. The creaminess of the Champagne mirrors the smooth milk chocolate coating while the bubbles amplify the crunchy pretzel interior. Pairing this fun, simple dessert with a rich sweet wine like 2001 Château Rieussec could be equally delicious, but the sweet-sweet pairing has the potential to feel too heavy on the palate. If you want your Valentine’s Day food and wine pairings to really stand out, think about all of the wine’s characteristics and how they’ll interact with each dish. Rather than pairing food and wine based on basic terms like “red,” “white,” “sparkling,” or “sweet,” take into account the wine’s body, alcohol level, flavors, aromas, and age. These can tell you much more about which foods will complement—and be complemented by—a wine.
How to Pick the Right Wine for the Occasion
It’s also important to keep your partner’s taste in mind when you pick out a Valentine’s Day food and wine pairing. Even if a bold Cabernet Sauvignon would be a perfect pairing for that steak dinner you have planned, it isn’t a good choice if your partner doesn’t enjoy red wine. The good news is that you can always find an alternative wine that pairs well with the dish and appeals to your date. In this case, a rich, aged Champagne like 1998 Krug Vintage Brut or a New-World Chardonnay like 2017 Peter Michael Chardonnay Cuvée Indigène are both excellent alternatives that are full-bodied enough to stand up to a heavy steak dinner.
Champagne is virtually the only style of wine that pairs well with every food.
You may also run into a food pairing snag if you plan on treating your date to dinner at a restaurant. Unless you look at the menu in advance or know exactly what your date is going to order, it’s tricky to plan a perfect pairing in advance. But even in this situation, you still have options. Champagne is virtually the only style of wine that pairs well with every food. Steak, chicken, salmon, oysters, roasted vegetables, truffles, foie gras, caviar, chocolate, and fresh fruit all pair beautifully with Champagne. It’s the perfect wine for Valentine’s Day: versatile, delicious, and celebratory. And, there’s just something exciting about hearing the cork pop and seeing all of those tiny bubbles fizz in the glass. When in doubt, pick up the finest bottle of Champagne you can find.
If you already know what you’re planning on having for dinner, however, you can get more creative with your Valentine’s Day wine and food pairings. Below we’ll describe some of our favorite options.
Perfect Valentine’s Day Wine and Food Pairings
Every Valentine’s Day celebration is different; there’s no traditional dish that everyone serves on this holiday. Still, there are a few common foods that you’ll frequently see on a special Valentine’s Day menu. If you plan on serving one of these dishes (or you’re still looking for some dinner ideas), these are some of the best Valentine’s Day wine and food pairings:
|Food||Wine Pairing||Great Wines to Try|
|Steak||Bold, complex Cabernet Sauvignon||2015 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Galitzine Vineyard|
|Lamb chops||Light, racy Pinot Noir||2017 Domaine Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru|
|Pork tenderloin||Rich, smoky Chardonnay||2012 Aubert Chardonnay CIX Estate Vineyard|
|Coq au vin||Medium-bodied red Burgundy||2015 Domaine Anne Gros Clos de Vougeot Grand Maupertui Grand Cru|
|Duck à l’orange||Medium-bodied, fruity Pinot Noir||2016 Kistler Pinot Noir Laguna Ridge Vineyard|
|Oysters or mussels||Fresh, flinty Chablis||2016 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru|
|Salmon||Floral white Burgundy||2015 Domaine Guffens-Heynen Pouilly-Fuissé Premier Jus des Hauts de Vignes|
|White fish or lobster||Dry or off-dry Riesling||2009 Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte-Hune|
|Foie Gras||Rich vintage Champagne||2002 Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon|
|Food||Wine Pairing||Great Wines to Try|
|Fettuccine alfredo||Intense white Burgundy||2015 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru|
|Lasagna or spaghetti with tomato sauce||Fruit-forward Merlot||2005 Kapcsàndy Merlot State Lane Vineyard Roberta’s Reserve|
|Mixed greens salad||Citrusy Sauvignon Blanc||2016 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre|
|Fondue or cheese platters||Dry non-vintage Champagne||NV Krug Grande Cuvée|
|Truffle or mushroom risotto||Creamy aged Marsanne||2010 M. Chapoutier Ermitage “Le Méal” Blanc|
|Ratatouille||Full-bodied Syrah or Shiraz||2016 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon|
|Potato gratin||Concentrated, acidic Riesling||2016 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese|
|Food||Wine Pairing||Great Wines to Try|
|Dark chocolate||Vintage port||1992 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port|
|Milk chocolate||Merlot with chocolate overtones||2015 Tua Rita Redigaffi|
|White chocolate||Sweet Riesling||2006 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Beerenauslese|
|Red velvet cake||Rosé Champagne||2004 Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé|
|Fruit tarts or fresh fruit||Young Sauternes||2017 Château Rieussec|
While there are many other excellent food and wine pairings possible, these combinations harmonize well with each other and won’t disappoint.
Want to Impress Your Date? Follow These Tips
Picking out the perfect Valentine’s day food and wine pairing is only part of the process. If you really want to make an impression on your date, keep a few other things in mind as well. First, if you’re going to a restaurant, call in advance to make sure you can bring a bottle. Ask about the corkage fee as well. You should also take precautions to protect the bottle during the trip to the restaurant. Older wines are often full of sediment that can mix with the rest of the wine if the bottle is shaken. Too much motion can also give the wine bottle shock, which shuts down the wine so that it tastes bland and closed-off. You want your date to experience the wine at its most complex and delicious, so taking these precautions is well worth the extra effort. If you’re having dinner at home or at your date’s house, you also need to consider ideal serving temperatures and decanting times and plan for these in advance.
You might even take some time during your date to tell your partner why you chose this wine for them.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to break out your nicest decanting set, glasses, and other wine accessories as well. You might even take some time during your date to tell your partner why you chose this wine for them. Even if your partner isn’t as passionate or as knowledgeable about wine as you are, they will deeply appreciate the thought that you put into planning this perfect date.
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