5 romantic wines and how to pair them
This Valentine’s Day, impress your partner with expertly crafted menu selections from a chef and sommelier.
Champagne and oysters. Chianti and bolognese. Chardonnay and lobster. Some things just go together. And Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating the magic of good chemistry.
And the nice thing about pairing food and wine for your partner is that it demonstrates so much more care than picking up flowers and chocolate, said Michael Wray, Ph.D., professor of Beverage Management in the Metropolitan State University of Denver School of Hospitality.
Wray should know. A certified wine specialist and sommelier, he teaches a Wine and Food class offered as an elective for the newly added Culinary Arts and Beverage Scholar certificate programs at MSU Denver.
“To me, Valentine’s Day is not a heavy meal; it’s not Thanksgiving,” Wray said. “It’s about multiple courses and a wine with each course.”
Whether you make dinner reservations or cook at home, start by thinking of your partner’s food preferences and decide on the meal first. Then, pair those foods with wines that will enhance the entire experience.
Wray suggests going to a wine shop you trust for guidance from knowledgeable staff. Ask them for wines that fit the names and descriptions below and you’ll be on your way to a memorable celebration.
Sparkling Rosé Prosecco: Pair with cheese and appetizers.
Valentine’s Day is a celebration, so why not start with a celebratory wine? “Sparkling rosés are lovely for the holiday,” Wray said. For something on the dry side but sweet on the wallet, try the Sparkling Rosé Prosecco from Costco. “It’s killer, and it’s $7!” Wray contrasts this wine to a typical Rosé Champagne, often priced between $40 and $150.
Pinot Gris from Alsace: Pair with light courses of vegetables, salads and seafood.
“In the world of wine, one of the most delightful regions is Alsace,” Wray said, referring to the wine region on the border of France and Germany, with long summer days and cool nights. “The grapes sit on the vines longer than in most places, which lends a level of ripeness and acidity, resulting in aromatic wines,” Wray said. Any Pinot Gris from Alsace is Wray’s top choice, but Alsatian Rieslings are another fine choice.
Tavel Rosé from Rhône: Pair with anything!
“Rosés have gone through the roof in popularity,” Wray said. If you aren’t sure what you’ll serve yet, or if you are certain you want a rosé, go with a Tavel Rosé from the Rhône region in France. This rosé is more meaty and versatile, with a deep red color — ideal for Valentine’s Day. “So if you’re having only one wine, this is the one to get,” Wray said.
Barbera di Asti: Pair with roasted chicken, grilled meats and steaks.
If you’re serving heartier meats or poultry and want a red wine to go with it, Wray suggests looking at Italian reds such as Barbera di Asti (Barbera is the grape, and Asti is the region). “This wine is the workhorse of Piedmont, commonly a blending grape but can stand on its own,” Wray said. It’s fruit-forward but relatively dry and not too tannic. And it’s not just for carnivores. For vegan meals, a big, full-bodied red would be overpowering. “You’d want something with more fruit and less tannin,” Wray said. “That’s the Barbera.”
Banfi Rosa Regale: Pair with dessert.
Wray’s top recommendation is Rosa Regale, a red semisweet wine from a producer called Banfi and its estate in the Piedmont region in Italy. As it happens, Banfi sponsors scholarships for MSU Denver students to study abroad in Italy to learn about food and wine together. This “Rowdy-red” dessert wine is said to be the wine Antony used to woo Cleopatra. If you seek a wine with some interesting history and a good love story behind it, the Rosa Regale is a must.
Seek out these wines, and your Valentine’s Day dinner is nearly complete. “Just make sure chocolate-covered strawberries are involved,” Wray said.