Valentine's Day - it’s probably just better to get it right!
There are some occasions in the calendar when food and wine are celebrated more than at other times in the year and Valentine's Day is one such event. It can seem like a chance to indulge your senses, probably because it is the first occasion that a lot of people have had reason to celebrate since the festive season.
Consumers though often complain about surcharges put on meals at restaurants at this time of year, and it's certainly true that paying more can take the romance out of a Valentine's meal. That's partly why an increasing number of people are choosing to cook for their loved one at home. The appeal is obvious, no surcharges, no competitive couples, and no uncalled for serenading while you eat.
However, it can be difficult to choose food that awes your loved one without being clichéd or messy dish (perhaps a skip on the BBQ). Oysters are allegedly an aphrodisiac but they are also certainly an acquired taste so may be best left for another time, although if you and your partner are partial to a bit of shellfish you can always give our last blog on pairing shellfish a read for some helpful tips. Everyone know, making an impact is not just about choosing the right food, getting the wine spot on will always impress, and that is where we come in.
Champagne is an obvious – and great – place to start. Why not try crostini to make a tasty, and easy, first course to accompany the bubbles. The International Wine and Spirit Competition's (IWSC) Institut Oenologique de Champagne Trophy was last year awarded to Union Champagne for Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne NV.
If you're really looking to impress, you may also want to consider the winner of the IWSC Trophy for Special Edition Champagne which went to Champagne Tattinger for Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2002.
Crostini are a versatile starter which you can top with any number of things but if you're looking for a salty, sweet accompaniment, which will go brilliantly with Champagne, why not try parma ham, fig and rocket.
Steak, chips and a bernaise sauce is an impressive main course and is sure to have an impact on Valentine's Day but you must not forget that the sauce you choose to have with your steak has a big influence on the best wine to pair with it. For instance, if you decide to plump for bernaise sauce you can go for a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir. Partial to a peppercorn sauce, you would be better off to go for a heartier wine such as a Malbec.
Anyone who remains unconvinced about steak as a main course, or if you or your partner is vegetarian, you could opt for a cep/porcini risotto. Porcini mushrooms have quite a strong taste so they can handle being paired with a fairly robust, creamy white such as an Australian or Californian Chardonnay. If you want to keep the fizz, then Champagne will work well here too.
As it's a special occasion, and most of us have ditched our New Year’s resolutions, you will probably be serving a dessert. A dessert deserves a sweet wine. South Africa's Constantia wine is receiving attention as it features in EL James' erotic novel Fifty Shades Darker, the follow up to her best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey. The book's protagonists enjoy a glass of 2004 vintage Vin de Constance at a masked ball they attend. If you want to replicate the wine and food pairing which appears in the book – although EL James is not necessarily an expert in this field – then try matching the Vin de Constance with maple ice cream, walnut chiffon candied figs and Sabayon sauce.
Alternatively, if this all seems like too much hard work, you could buy some ready-made ice-cream and pour some Pedro Ximenez Sherry over the top. It will look and taste impressive and you avoid having any potentially embarrassing conversations about the inspiration behind your dessert.
Top food & wine matching tips from the What Food What Wine? team