Valentine’s Day calls for the most decadent tastes.
As a tradition, wine is meant to be paired with dinner. If you’d like to surprise your date with the most amazing wine and food pairings, look no further. We’ll walk you through the right beverage for your delicious meal.
If you’re new to wine tasting, keep in mind that decanting your wine will make it taste even better. For storing your wine, keep it in a cool, dark, and humid environment away from other foods. A wine cooler is essential for collecting and storing wine.
Pairing Wine with Dinner
The first step to choosing the best wine and food pairing is to figure out the meal. Decide on your wine second to your meats, then decide on side dishes that go well with both. After you’ve narrowed down your options, if you’re still having a tough time choosing, there are key ingredients that will help determine the very best pairing.
Here are a three of the most popular Valentine’s Day dinner recipes from AllRecipes.com:
1. Chicken Parmigiana paired with a medium-bodied red wine.
In this recipe, you’ll enjoy light meat, starches, and rich tomatoes. Chicken goes well with either white wines or medium-bodied red wines, while darker meat goes best with red wine.
From the high starches in pasta and breading, your choice can go either way. The defining factor in this meal is the high acidity in the pasta sauce, which pairs better with red wines than white wines. Your top choices could be red Merlot or Chianti.
2. T-Bone Steak paired with bold red wine.
A meal with steak should be all about the steak. This is an example where your sides will certainly come after choosing the perfect wine to match your meat. A flavorful, bold wine complements smoky and rich peppered seasoning, and high alcohol content balances well with fatty cuts.
The side for this dish could be a baked potato or similar starchy food to include a hard cheese such as cheddar, parmesan, or gouda. For your wine pairing, you’ll likely end up choosing Cabernet Sauvignon.
3. Tarragon Lover’s Scallops paired with dry, rich white wine.
Within this recipe, you’ll choose a wine to cook with as well as to drink. Tarragon is an herb in the lettuce family with both a sweet and sharp taste, and scallops are a very rich seafood.
The best wine to cook with should be dry and crisp, while the meat in this dish calls for a rich wine. Rather than choosing two different wines, drinking the same wine you cook with can be very satisfying. An unoaked Chardonnay is your best option, or you could try a less-rich but dry choice such as Pino Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Secrets for the Ultimate Pairings
When deciding between the best pairings, one helpful way to pick one over another is to focus on the sauces used in the meal.
Balsamic Vinaigrette is a highly acidic sauce, so a zesty wine will balance the meal. Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice for its green apple flavor.
A1 or Worcestershire Sauce contains rich and peppery flavors that go well with an equally rich but smooth red wine. A safe choice is Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, but if you’d like try a truly bold red wine, Syrah can match your meal’s peppery notes.
Ketchup is often a hidden ingredient that can add a bit of unexpected sweetness. The right wine should accentuate the sweetness, but also complement the acidity from the tomato paste. A wine with fruits can pair well with a meal including ketchup such as Lambrusco or Pino Noir.
Dinners that Shouldn’t be Paired to Wine
For many dishes, wine pairings will come naturally. However, there are a few examples of great meals that won’t go so well with wine.
Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus does NOT go well with wine.
This dish contains savory prosciutto and a rare choice of Neufchatel cheese. While this is a fine meal to serve for a fancy dinner, the asparagus is a central ingredient and very difficult to pair with wine. This unique vegetable gives off a metallic taste when blended with tannins.
Similar issues come with Brussels sprouts and artichokes, where their distinct and earthy acidity doesn’t pair well with wine. As a fun fact, Brussels sprouts and varieties of cabbage taste different depending on your genetic taste buds. For some fine diners, these wouldn’t be favorable options regardless of whether wine is included!
Pairing Wine with Dessert
Valentine’s day wouldn’t be complete without dessert. The key to pairing your wine with a treat is to select wine that is a bit sweeter than the dish and compliments bitter or salty ingredients. Here are two great recipes to try:
1. Chocolate Covered Strawberries paired with champagne.
When you think Valentine’s Day sweets, chocolate strawberries are likely among the first to come to mind. Dipping strawberries in chocolate is easy and fun to eat after a nice dinner. Your main consideration with this pairing is whether you’re using dark chocolate or milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate is more bitter and calls for sweeter wine, while milk chocolate is sweeter and calls for a wine with light acidity. Pair milk chocolate strawberries with a rich rosé champagne, and pair dark chocolate safely with red Merlot.
2. Almond Cupcake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting paired with a creamy white wine.
The caramel in this recipe’s frosting calls for an especially sweet wine pairing, and the saltiness requires a lower-acidity match. The almonds contain their own slight bitterness that can be complemented. The best choice is a sweet and smooth Oloroso Sherry, which goes great with other nutty deserts that include pecans and walnuts.
For some more advice on ageing and serving wine, watch Master Sommelier Michael Jordan explain his most useful tips.