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.
When temperatures dip, many people want to cozy up by the fireplace with a bold, full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. These rich wines are comforting this time of the year and often pair beautifully with hearty winter meals. But full-bodied red wines aren’t the only beverage of choice for the chilliest winter months. Opulent and creamy white wine can be just as warm and comforting in the cold seasons. In fact, bolder white wines like Chardonnay, Viognier, Champagne, and Sauternes pair even better with some traditional winter foods than red wines do.
A few years ago, a wine enthusiast wrote a letter to Wine Spectator’s Dr. Vinifera asking whether it’s safe to decant Sauternes. The letter writer had just come back from a restaurant and had been surprised to see that the sommelier poured a 1995 Château d’Yquem from a decanter. Dr. Vinifera responded that decanting Château d’Yquem certainly isn’t a common practice, but it’s also not a bad idea. Like any other fine wine, some Sauternes vintages open up with a little aeration and become more expressive.
In 2015, journalist Melissa Chang was invited to a private wine tasting party built around unique Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon food pairings. Each dish was designed specifically to complement a particular Dom Pérignon wine. The classic 2004 Dom Pérignon was served with bacon jam biscuits. A bottle of 1998 Dom Pérignon P2 was paired with smoked king salmon. The night wrapped up with glasses of 2003 Dom Pérignon Rosé followed by a sweet tofu dessert. Chang said the tasting reminded her just how versatile Dom Pérignon and other fine Champagne can be. She says, “Champagne is like a little black dress—it goes with everything.” This guide will show you how to create the ideal pairing for all the bottles in your collection.
This summer, I went to a wedding and was served the most delicious homemade Indian food I’ve ever tasted. I filled my plate with buttery chicken makhani, smoky tandoori, and a huge variety of spicy curries. The bride and groom provided two different alcoholic beverages to pair with the food: lager beer and Grenache. I’ll admit that when I saw Grenache on the menu, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure how the wine’s flavors would interact with all of the complex spices in the meal. To my surprise, however, the Grenache blend the couple chose perfectly complemented the food. The fruitiness of the Grenache played well with the creamier dishes on the table, while the spicy notes in the wine enhanced the food’s smoky paprika and cardamom flavors. Grenache and Indian food is now one of my favorite pairings.
One of my friend’s favorite holiday traditions is to sit next to the fireplace with a bottle of vintage Graham’s at her side. She sips the wine slowly while nibbling on dark chocolate truffles or chocolate-covered almonds. For her, port and chocolate go hand-in-hand. Even though she’s served port with other desserts before, she always goes back to that same classic port and chocolate pairing.
Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile wines to pair with food—from fresh spring vegetables to rich paté, you can serve this wine with a huge range of dishes. In fact, when I’m invited to a dinner party or bring my own wine to a restaurant, I very often take along a Pinot Noir, especially if I’m not sure what dish is going to be served. The wine’s perfect balance of bracing acidity, sweet fruit, and complex aromatics make it a joy to drink on its own or paired with nearly any dish.
Finding the right Château d’Yquem food pairing can be a challenge–although Yquem is an intense and powerful wine, some foods will overpower its complex flavors. I know a wine enthusiast who served a bottle of 1947 Château d’Yquem alongside a platter of very strong cheese (including blue cheese and aged asiago). The bold flavors of the blue cheese completely overwhelmed his palate and he could no longer taste the Yquem properly. Frustrated after this experience, he decided to only drink Yquem on its own in the future or to pair it with very delicate, mild foods like lobster or fresh pear. He’s now afraid to serve the wine with anything too bold or savory.
When you think of the aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party, you probably picture dozens of empty and half-empty Champagne bottles scattered around the room. But while many people love a splash of bubbly on December 31st, not everyone wants to sip on it all night. Even though Champagne (and, increasingly, sparkling wine) has had a virtual monopoly on New Year’s for the past few decades, it’s certainly not your only option. In fact, some of the best red wine for New Year’s can be just as impressive as a vintage bottle of Krug, and may win the hearts of even the most diehard bubbly fans. Whether you want to break out of a Champagne rut or you simply want to offer your red wine-loving guests a few more choices this year, choosing a handful of high-quality, rare red wines could make your New Year’s party a raving success.
Champagne and New Year’s Eve go together like bread and butter–no New Year’s celebration feels quite right without a flute of bubbly to toast with when midnight strikes. The night of December 31st is all about new beginnings, and the right bottle of Champagne can make this special event feel like a major milestone in your life. Rather than kicking the new year off with a less-than-exciting glass of Prosecco, sipping on finely aged 1971 Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon feels significant and can set a positive tone for the year. The best Champagne for New Year’s Eve will make even the most casual party feel like an iconic, once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s a great opportunity to uncork your true showstopper bottles.
Every year, my family makes an enormous batch of lasagna on Christmas Eve. While this Italian holiday tradition makes for a delicious dining experience, sometimes, finding the perfect wine pairing can be a challenge. The layers of creamy ricotta, spicy sausage, acidic marinara, and buttery noodles have so many flavors that the lasagna tends to overpower all but a handful of wines. That’s why we usually go with a full-bodied, acidic wine like 2004 Vietti Barolo, which can pair well with just about any savory Christmas dish, from lasagna to prime rib. Whether you’re serving a holiday classic like Christmas ham or you’re cooking up something a little more exotic this year, the best wine for Christmas dinner usually falls in the category of acidic, full-bodied reds and whites. These varieties will enhance the food at your table and elevate the holiday experience for you and your guests.
A few weeks ago, I opened a bottle of California Zinfandel and found the wine as dull as nails. Since this is a vintage that a good friend raved about, I decided to give it another shot, this time pouring it through my handheld wine aerator. Within moments, the bland Zinfandel transformed into a heady…