Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Surprising Wines for Valentine's Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Several of my friends have said they are over the bubbles on Valentine's Day. As much as they love them, the icy coldness of the bottle and the wine can be off putting in colder climes. Or perhaps--lucky them--they had too many great bottles on New Year's Eve. So here's a completely unorthodox suggestion of red, white and sweet pairings that will work with whatever you eat (or don't) for the upcoming festivities.

Open Your Palate with the First Course
A little chilled, but not freezing, Loire Valley white such as a Pouilly Fumé or a Sancerre is great way to start off an indulgent  meal. I can't think of anything that pairs better with oysters (except perhaps some very simple White Bordeaux). Chateaux La Mouliniere Blanc is a treat and a very well-priced one at that if you head south to Bordeaux for your match.

The acidity and minerality in these wines will also play well with a salad of raw scallops or an intensely vegetal soup (but spare the cream). Some of the grassy flavors in these wines will also tame and interact well with intense, bitter flavors like those of fennel and spinach, which are often used in winter soups.

Indulge with the Second Course
We missed foie gras so much when it was banned in California that I can't get enough of it. A delicious slice of this ultimate treat deserves some great off-dry wine. The classic pairing would be French Sauternes, which isn't always in everyone's price point. Slightly sweet Austrian, German and Canadian wines can also do the trick. A Hungarian Tokaji would be lovely as well. Reds are much harder to pair with the intensity of duck liver as they rarely have the richness to stand up to its complex flavors and their tannins can overpower the dish.

Pull out all the Stops with a Big Meat Course
I just had a pretty divine, perfectly cooked Porterhouse steak when I was in New York last week. The earthy, funkiness of Old World Wines are often ideal for marbled cuts of meat. Southern Italian big boys like Aglianico can be incredibly tannic on their own, but work their magic with meat. Other favorites would be anything from the Rhône, including the region's simplest wines, a rowdy red from Portugal and potentially a nice Syrah or Syrah blend from Washington State.

If you are not a fan of steak any kind a long-stewed meat can hit the same high notes with these wines. A pork stew or leg or lamb would be among my favorites. A good cut of veal, when you can find it always great, and if all else fails just wrap almost anything in bacon. Even figs or more austere seafood take on a meaty intensity with just a little bit of it in the mix.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Photo Credit: www.urbanrabbits.eu

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