Valentine's Day can be a stressful time of year—worrying about how to treat your special someone (or if you'll even have a date at all) can send anyone into a tizzy. But if there's a good fallback to any over-commercialized holiday, it's good food and good wine. If your bar and restaurant is looking to host a few menu specials for Cupid's big day, then this inimitable duo is hard to mess up. But sometimes the right wine pairing with the right dish can make all the difference.
Let's take a look at some of the best wine pairing suggestions you can add to your Valentine's Day menu. And if all else fails, just go for the theme.
Best Wines to Pair with Cheese
Whether you're serving up a dippable bread fondue or a three-cheese tortellini could help decide what wine should be paired with the dish. For as many different types of cheeses there are, there's a perfect wine to go alongside it.
An Italian cheese obviously calls for an Italian wine sidekick. Go for a Prosecco or Lambrusco, as the bubbly body helps tame the saltiness of the hard cheese.
The French certainly know how to make delicacies and this creamy cheese that melts in your mouth benefits from pairing with its delicate southwestern France sibling Sauvignon Blanc.
Holland's most famous cheese can run from soft and smooth to hard and well-aged. If you're serving up the former, go with a light Pinot Grigio to complement the young texture. If you're putting out a harder gouda, adding a high-tannin Cabernet Sauvignon that can stand up to the older texture is a good choice. If you want to fall somewhere in the middle with a medium-aged gouda, then opt for a Chardonnay.
If all else fails, go for a Riesling. The acidity and sweetness combo of this white variety means it can pair well with pretty much any cheese. So put together that massive charcuterie board and go wild!
Best Wines to Pair with Meat
Just like cheese before it, meat dishes are as varied as the land, sea or air that their ingredients come from. Finding a good wine to pair alongside a carnivore craving can bring the dish to the next level.
Probably the most commonly paired meat with wine, steakhouses around the globe have wine cellars filled with bottles for every cut. We could write a whole post on this, but generally red is the go-to and the variety depends on the cut. A filet enjoys a merlot, a flank enjoys a Malbec and a ribeye enjoys a Cab Sav. We could spend all day here, but a good rule of thumb is opt for lighter reds with lean meats and high tannin reds for fatty meats.
By this point you know the drill: there are categories within categories and plenty of varieties to go around. For the scaly creatures from the deep blue sea (or fresh lake), it depends on whether you're going flaky or meaty, white or pink. For flaky white fish like sole or perch, a fresh Pinot Grigio does the trick. If you're going for a meaty seared salmon fillet then a Pinot Noir can bring out all those bold flavors.
The broken record strikes again: there are many different pairings for poultry depending on the different type of poultry dish you're serving. But as the age-old rule states: if it's white meat it usually goes well with a white wine. A Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are safe bets for chicken, but if you're getting wild with sauces or seasonings, you might want to be more specific. And the meat of a darker bird can throw things sideways, as well. Zinfandel is perfect for a heavy turkey dinner, while Pinot Noir is known to pair well with duck. If you're going BBQ chicken on the grill, Malbec is your friend.
Best Wines to Pair with Chocolate
You've made it through the 3 or 5 or 7 course meal and it's finally time to bring out dessert. Whether you're serving up white, milk, dark or something in a baked good, chocolate and wine is as varied a pairing as they come. A general rule of thumb is to match the intensity of the chocolate with the intensity of the wine.
The creamy taste of white chocolate pairs well with a sweet Sherry or a fruity Zinfandel.
Often the most sugary of chocolates, the milk chocolate variety is the most flexible to pair with wine. This category pairs well with dry rosé, fruity Riesling, or even a lighter-styled Beaujolais.
Heavy on the cacao and bitterness, dark chocolate loves to handle the pairing of an intense wine. Put these desserts alongside a Tawny Port or full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chocolate cheese cake
It's chocolate, it's cheese, how do you pair it? Of course the flavors play heavily into the decision here, but chocolate cheesecakes are known to be rich, so you can bet flavorful options like Port, Sherry and Shiraz are great choices.
Best Wines (and Other Spirits) for Lovers
Sometimes you just want to have the wine for wine's sake on Valentine's Day, so playing to the theme can be the best choice of all. Whether you're looking for a passion fruit seltzer, a rose-themed rosé, kissed caramel spirits or a big bottle of red, then this category is a great choice.