Should you choose a big, budget-bending wine that’s sure to impress but might not make the “perfect” pairing? Do you have to have red wine with red meat? Can you serve the wine you drank on your wedding day even though red wine isn’t supposed to go with fish?
I would like to put the question of how you choose a Valentine’s wine to rest once and for all. And to address the issue of pairing, I turn to Tim Hanni, Master of Wine and Certified Wine Educator. Hanni has spent a lifetime working in the field of wine pairings. And in addition to being one of the foremost-educated men in the American wine industry, he’s also a trained chef.
Hanni has a simple answer to the question of what wine to serve to your Valentine. “Match the wine to the Valentine. Ask yourself what gets them fired up, hot, and in a frenzy.”
As for worrying about perfectly pairing your wine and your meal, he explains that when you get right down to it, what we think of as wine pairing is little more than a farce. “Wine pairing is a complete misrepresentation of the history and presentation of wine in Europe and its based on metaphors and pseudo-sciences.”
That isn’t to say that certain foods and wines don’t taste better or worse together. Hanni acknowledges that there are most definitely interactions between foods and wines that can influence how you perceive the flavor of the wine. Hanni explains it very simply: Sweet and umami flavors in your food will make the wine more bitter. Salt and acidity, (like citrus juice), will make the wine smoother. He recommends trying something he calls the “tequila trick” to better understand this for yourself.
Get a wedge of fresh lemon and some salt. Try a wine, lick the salt then the lemon and try the wine again. Notice how the flavors of salt and acidity changed the wine? As Hanni puts it, “The wine will now be smooth and wonderful.”
So, now that you know that you can make any wine and food a pleasing match, it’s time to get down to what’s really going to make your Valentine’s wine the right wine.
It may be as simply as, “playing to the flavors your lover likes,” as Hanni puts it. He recommends that if your lover likes sweet, give them something “luscious.” And if the like “big ass reds,” give them that!
Now if your lover is simply a lover of wine, a fan of both racy sauvignon blancs and velvety pinot noirs, the choice can be more complex — and more fun. You see, according to the research of the late Dr. Max Lake, an Australian physician and vintner, the aromas of certain wines can be sexually arousing.
Lake’s theory is that the scents of some wines replicate those of human pheromones. (Pheromones are chemicals that affect behavior on an unconscious level. The kind of pheromones we’re talking about here trigger uncontrollable sexual attraction.) According to Lake’s book Scents and Sensuality, Blanc de Blancs Champagnes and sparkling wines can trigger a pheromonal reaction in women. Lake also found that the aromas of Rieslings with “petrol” notes and some rich and musky Chardonnays also exhibit this pheromonal note. Super earthy, masculine wines like woodsy Burgundies and big, intense cabernets with aromas of leather and musk will cause a similar reaction in men.
So if you want to make your Valentine’s night truly exciting, skip the pairings. Instead consider what will please your lover from an emotional standpoint. Then try to match their preferences with something that offers the promise of pheromones. You might consider opening two wines for this special occasion: one that’s sure to warm your lover from taste buds to toes and a second to send your own state of mind into the throes of passion.
I would recommend starting with a beautiful bottle of bubbly such as Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne or J. Schramm from the Napa Valley. Then move on to a sultry, sexy red like Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin, Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva or Swanson Vineyards’ Alexis. With wines like these, you may not even need dinner!