David’s article as prepared for the Duluth News Tribune for the article which ran on 2/4/2015:
Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year and if you find yourself planning a romantic rendezvous, here are two wine suggestions.
First, let’s start with what not to do. Don’t pair Champagne, or any Champagne-style sparkling wine with a box of chocolates. Wine and chocolate do pair nicely, but sparkling wine and chocolate do not.
Sparkling wines are mostly dry and high in acid. This makes them pair nicely with rich, salty foods like potato chips, tater tots and macaroni and cheese. Dry, high-acid wines don’t pair with sweet foods, and a heart-shaped box of chocolates is full of sugary sweetness.
What are you supposed to do if you want to be romantic and set the mood for Valentine’s Day with a bottle of Champagne?
Nothing says romance more than a bottle of bubbly chilling in an ice bucket, but the classic pairing for Champagne is either caviar or oyster on the half shell. Both are salty, and they have the side benefit of being thought of as an aphrodisiac.
But here’s the catch — both are raw and both are expensive. Frankly, my date doesn’t like Champagne, and after we sampled some of the finest oysters Seattle had to offer, she said, “I think oysters are wasted on me.” I got the hint. I should order them if I’d like to, and she’ll have something else. That something else is almost universally agreeable — dark chocolate and red wine.
Red wine is a large category, and for this pairing I’m specifically thinking about California zinfandel. There are a host of very good wines that would go nicely with chocolate, but in my opinion, the best is zinfandel. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and go buy one. You’ll taste what I mean.
This grape, zinfandel, is easy to appreciate, kind of like California. It isn’t very tannic, meaning it should have a smooth velvety mouth feel, and it goes great with most hearty, robust foods like barbecue. At about 14 percent, it’s relatively high in alcohol content, but that adds a sweetness to the wine and subsequently makes it a very good pairing for slightly bitter, but oh so good dark chocolate.
A glass of zinfandel and some fine chocolate, taken in sips and nibbles while allowing the flavor of both to linger on the tongue and slowly melt in the mouth sounds like the start to a romantic encounter to me. Maybe Champagne and caviar have met their match.
A bottle of Champagne starts at about $40, and Mount Royal Fine Foods routinely has fresh oysters which are sustainably harvested from the Virginia Coast. A bottle of zinfandel starts at about $12, and Whole Foods Coop sells multiple kinds of high-quality chocolate bars.
I know what my date is expecting on Valentines day. What are your plans?
David Devere is a certified specialist of wine. He teaches wine classes mainly in the Duluth, MN area. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.