Valentine’s Day is almost here and wine will likely be on the menu. With the proper attention and care, wine can be the perfect pairing with any dinner selection. Here are a few things to keep in mind when pairing wine with food.

Drink what you like, not what you are supposed to like. Wine is incredibly personal and comes down to the chemistry you have with it. It should make you smile when you taste it. Try everything, but go back to what you most enjoy.

Wine is amazing when paired correctly with a meal because the wine can make food taste better and come alive after every sip. Wine is a delicious, alcoholic sorbet that cleanses the palate between bites. It washes our taste buds clean so that every mouthful of food after each sip of wine is as exciting as the first. In return, the food should make the wine taste better as well. Like every great relationship, wine and food are great as individuals but become better versions of themselves together.

Certain wines tend to go better with particular foods. Try pairing rich, more tannic wines with rich, fatty, and protein-heavy dishes. As an example, the more marbled and decadent the steak, the darker and more robust the wine should be. Pair crisp, mouthwatering wines with citrusy and/or salty foods. The perfect matches with ceviche, lime squeezed fish tacos, popcorn, or goat cheese are high-acid whites like Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc and Champagne. Enjoy fruity, sweet wines with fruity, sweet, and/or spicy foods. Consider an off-dry Riesling with spicy Thai dishes, fish with fruit salsa, or blackened seafood. And give regional wines a try with dishes or ingredients from the same area. There is a great chance they will be beautiful partners.

If you’re looking for something specific, here are some pairings to consider:

The perfect pairing for pasta with tomato sauce

Lighter Italian red wines like Barbera or Dolcetto are incredible with simple pasta and red sauce. They have the fruit and acidity to stand up to the natural sweet-tartness of tomatoes without overwhelming. Smooth out the tannin in the wine (making the wine fruitier and more round) by shaving some aged Parmesan over the top.

The perfect pairing for a simply prepared seafood dinner

Typically, seafood loves combinations of crisp and citrusy flavors. Simply prepared seafood goes extremely well with light, mouthwatering whites. They act as a squeeze of lemon for the fish and will not overwhelm the delicate flavors. Great examples of seafood-friendly white wines include Albariño, Muscadet, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. If butter or cream is added to any sauce, up the ante with a cool climate Chardonnay like Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet or Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

The perfect pairing for steak

Grilled steak and Malbec is a brilliant combination. Malbec has the right amount of supple tannin to clean the steak and sauce from the palate with approachable flavors of dark plum and hints of citrus. There is nothing wrong with a good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but consider that Argentina’s cuisine is practically based on grilled beef and their local wine is, in fact, Malbec.

This Valentine’s Day, indulge in a multi-sensory experience that goes beyond the “pairing.” Wine and food are just the tip of the iceberg. Consider the food and the wine together, but also the music, the flowers, the scents in the air, and the textures of your clothes. This is a holiday for celebrating all your senses. Do not neglect any one of them.

 

About the Expert: Christopher Coon, Senior Director of Wine Education & Training

Christopher Coon is the Senior Director of Wine Education & Training for Young’s Market Company. His professional experience in the wine industry spans over 20 years and includes the development of three Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine lists. His beverage programs have earned awards and recognition from: Mobil, AAA, Santé Magazine, Wine Spectator Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Esquire Magazine, Zagot Survey, Gayot.com, Robb Report, Forbes Traveler, Riviera Magazine, MSN.com, and Trefethen Winery.

Throughout his career as a sommelier, beverage director, wine studies instructor, and sales manager, he has maintained strong education programs for the associates, buyers and consumers he has served. These programs have helped over 80 students pass their Introductory Level Sommelier Exam and five pass their Certificate Level Exams. He has taught hundreds of consumers about wine through private and group wine tastings, classes and workshops. This experience fits perfectly with Christopher’s role at Young’s Market Company as he builds a comprehensive wine education program for all sales divisions in the company.