Valentine's Day Inspired Food & Wine Pairings
One of my favorite parts of Valentine's Day is the food. Everyone has their own opinion about cupid's holiday, but you can't deny that any excuse for a fancy meal is a good excuse, especially if it includes dessert! Whether you're cooking for a special someone or ordering takeout for your Gal-entine's Day celebrations, this post will help you find the right wine to pair with some of the top Valentine's Day cuisine!
Why does this pairing work? Oysters have a particular salty, ocean-briny taste to them. They're also often served with a mignonette (which is primarily vinegar) and lemon. When we think about pairing wine with food, we often look for a wine that has similar qualities to whatever we typically serve with it. In this case, both mignonette and lemon have high acidity so we want a high acid wine. From the northern region of Rías Baixas, Spain, Albariño not only has the high acidity we're looking for, but also the salty, ocean like quality that will pair perfectly with the briny oysters.
Sushi & Grüner Veltliner
Why does this pairing work? Cava is a sparkling wine made in Spain. It's made using the same method as Champagne, but typically includes different grapes and sells for a fraction of the price! The bubbles and acidity in the Cava go perfectly with the salty, fried coating of the shrimp. They act as a palate cleanser, prepping you for your next bite. Cava's primary flavors of lemon, yellow apple, and white flowers compliment the delicate flavor of the shrimp, but stand up to the sweet coconut.
Fettuccine Alfredo & Willamette Valley Chardonnay
I'm starting to realize that I might like typical Valentine's Day food so much because it reminds me of all my favorite "going out" meals as a child! If they didn't have coconut shrimp on the menu, my next choice was definitely Fettuccine Alfredo. The creamy, buttery, rich sauce was exactly what my cheese-loving self desired.
Why does this pairing work? With this dish in particular we're looking for a balance of body and acidity in our wine. Body is essentially the weight of the wine in your mouth. This aspect of wine is often balanced with the heaviness (or intensity) of the dish. With its creamy, buttery sauce we definitely need a wine that falls in the medium to full body category to pair with this fettuccine. However, we also need some acidity to keep the pairing from becoming too heavy. Willamette Valley is a cool-climate region in Oregon, which means the wines produced there will have a higher acidity. Thus, an Oregon Chardonnay is our perfect balance of body and acidity.
Chicken Parmesan & Pinot Nero
A classic Italian dish would typically call for a classic Italian wine. But where would the fun in that be? I've decided instead to pair this classic with a familiar varietal...just with a different name.
Why does this pairing work? Parmesan sauce is tomato-based, meaning we want to avoid wines with too much tannin as it could cause everything to taste a bit metallic. Pinot Nero is what the Italians call their Pinot Noir. In my opinion, Pinot Nero tends to fit right in between French Pinot Noir (high acid, earthy, low alcohol) and California Pinot Noir (medium acid, intense fruit, high alcohol). Pinot Nero's medium-high acidity will cut through the rich tomato sauce and its balance of fruit and earth will complement the herbal notes present in the dish.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries & Brachetto d'Acqui
Why does this pairing work? Due to the sweetness of the strawberries and the chocolate, we need a wine with equal or more sugar to preserve its fruit flavor and prevent it from tasting flat. Typically I like to pair fruit with sweet white wine, but with the added flavor profile of chocolate we need more red fruit and a bit more body than a white wine can provide. Brachetto d'Acqui is a fizzy, sweet red wine from Piedmont, Italy that sparks the perfect balance with the rich chocolate and fruity strawberries.