Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us are spending Valentine’s Day at home this year. However, whether you are celebrating in person or virtually, an indoor dinner and a special bottle of wine can make the day memorable.
With the quality of wines produced globally getting better than ever, and delivered straight to your door, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to wine pairings with your Valentine’s Day meal. It can be hard to know where to turn to impress your date, so we spoke to Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, head of Fine Wine at Cult Wines, who outlines several intriguing food and wine pairing options.
Steak and dauphinoise potatoes
What to drink with steak depends on the cut of the steak and how it is cooked. Traditionally, steaks are paired with red wines, and for good reason. The right red wines have both tannins and alcohol that can help bring out the richness of the steak. Although we cannot have a restaurant-style cut of ribeye, we can sear it at home and pair it with Lukasz’s suggestions:
“Just the mention of this dish makes me dream about a juicy medium-rare cut of ribeye at Hawksmoor restaurant. Although this sadly cannot happen this Valentine’s Day, I do have two great suggestions for a home-cooked meal. First, the Mondavi family’s Napa Valley Continuum 2013 forms an excellent partner to steak. Its layered tannic structure binds with the meat’s proteins, highlighting the wine’s generous blackcurrant and cassis aromas that are seasoned with blackcurrant leaves and charcoal mineral flavours.
“Another great option is Porseleinberg Syrah from the Swartland region of South Africa. The vines here are grown on blueschist soils that brings a mineral intensity to the wine, which balances with the blueberry and red berry flavours and earthy, black pepper notes. I recommend decanting for an hour before your meal so that the wine’s body and texture perfectly harmonises with your preferred cut.”
White wine, sparkling or still, is the classic pairing with oysters. The high acidity and naturally crisp style pairs perfectly with fresh seafood. So that we avoid pairing our oysters with a wine that is heavily oaky or tannic, Lukasz provides his light sparkling wine suggestion which won’t overwhelm the dish:
“A classic aphrodisiac, this dish deserves something extraordinary, and I can’t imagine anything more suitable that the 2008 Comtes de Champagne by Taittinger. The 2008 vintage is deservedly regarded as exceptional. Its punchy pure citrus fruit alongside a mineral freshness forms a perfect marriage with the saline, seawater flavours in the oysters. There may be many fish in the sea, but there is only one 2008 Comtes de Champagne!”
Strawberries and cream
Strawberries and cream are often linked with romance. Historically, strawberries date back to Ancient Rome where the fruit was associated with Venus, the goddess of love. Due to its bright red colour, it has remained an enticing dessert option for Valentine’s Day. Lukasz suggests pairing this sweet treat with a German classic:
“There are many fantastic sweet wines out there, but a Johann Josef Prüm, Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 2018 forms an ultimate Valentine’s Day treat. Established in 1911 by Johann Josef Prüm, this producer brings a wealth of experience and excels with this off-dry style of Riesling from the Mosel region’s heat-trapping blue and red schist soils. The result is a memorable wine of extreme purity, accurate and precise flavour with refreshingly sweet peaches, quinces and apricots that will make a beautiful pairing to the strawberries’ natural sweetness. The wine’s crisp mineral acidity will enhance the freshness in the cream.”
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of chocolate. Whether it be a gift or molten lava dessert, chocolate symbolises affection, luxury, passion and sensuality. Historically, a bride and groom would drink hot chocolate to celebrate but Lukasz recommends celebrating with a chocolate dessert and port instead:
“As Albert Einstein taught us ‘Love is light, that enlightens those who give and receive it.’ I strongly believe our quality of life is directly connected to the quality of the moments we share with our lover. And nothing captures a moment in time better than vintage Port paired with chocolate. No matter if you are born in the 1920s, the 2000s or anywhere in between, you can find a vintage from the birth year of your loved one. Port’s dense and rich character resembles those found in chocolate, and its natural freshness helps to clean your palate. “
During the renaissance, it was forbidden to eat asparagus because it was considered a food with aphrodisiac properties. Nowadays, it is the perfect nutritious side dish for your extravagant Valentine’s Day meal. Whether boiled, roasted, sautéed or baked, Lukasz provides his wine pairing suggestion:
“Asparagus calls to mind two contrasting but equally-wonderful world-class Sauvignon Blancs. If you have a Coravin system, why not have a glass of each? Loire Valley is home to Sancerre Le Chêne Marchand by Lucien Crochet. Grown on a mix of limestone and granite soils, this wine brings a mineral intensity with cut grass, passion fruit and fresh citrus that enhance the purity of asparagus. The zippy acidity perfectly refreshes your palate between bites of hollandaise sauce. The second option would be Seifried Estate Aotea Sauvignon Blanc from the Nelson region of New Zealand. Grown on volcanic rock, this pure and zesty wine is bursting with pronounced nettle, grape juice and citrus flavours that will dance on your palate without overpowering the green, vegetal flavour of asparagus.”
For delicate, fresh fish like sea bass you need crisp, unoaked white wines. Due to its higher acidity, white wine is a better complement for fish and a squeeze of lemon juice can really bring out the flavours of seafood. For Lukasz, matching fish with wine is a joy and he shares his top fine wine suggestion:
“Fine fish, deserve fine wine. And most agree the finest white wines are found in Burgundy. Based in Nuit St Georges, Domaine Tawse Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot from 2017 offers an intense and extremely fresh wine with grapefruit, green apple and vanilla flavours highlighted by mineral-led acidity. This match will be ideal as any butter or lemony flavours in your sea bass dish will connect to the wine’s citrus and light oaky vanilla notes.”
Nothing beats a freshly made spaghetti alla carbonara. This iconic dish from Rome is very easy to prepare but you might have difficulty choosing which wine to pair with it. Lukasz’s suggestions pair well with the complexity of the dish flavours- the sweet pasta and egg yolk, the fatty consistency of pork guanciale, freshly ground pepper and the powerful Pecorino Romano:
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of cheekiness on Valentine’s Day so here I offer a bit of a rebellious suggestion. Unlike traditional Gavi di Gavi or Soave, I’d pair a carbonara dish with a wine from sunny Santorini, specifically Hatzidakis Cuvée No.15 from 2018. A rich and creamy pasta dish just loves a fresh, mineral wine that can match its intensity but is also light and capable of refreshing and cleansing your palate. Made from the Assyrtiko grape, this wine is nuanced and complex with a long and invigorating ending. Visiting Santorini is impossible now, so why visit through its unique wines.”