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5 Great Pairings for Valentine's Day Bubbly

Robert Whitley on

We can all agree that Champagne adds a bit of sparkle to Valentine's Day. A box of chocolates will get high marks, too. So far so good, right? Until you take a bite of chocolate with a sip of Champagne. That's when the Valentine's mood is likely to sour.

Champagne and chocolate -- a traditional combination on Valentine's Day -- simply do not mix. The sweetness of the chocolate will make even the finest Champagne taste harsh and acidic, hardly a match made in heaven. So, what to do?

First of all, if chocolates are a must, then shy away from a brut Champagne or any other sparkling brut, no matter its reputation. A sweet Italian bubbly such as Brachetto d'Acqui, a red wine that shows bright raspberry and strawberry flavors, is excellent with chocolates.

But if Champagne (or its domestic equivalent) is a must, think an elegant dining experience with food selections that actually work with Champagne.

Here are five suggestions that are sure to win hearts and tummies.

1. Lobster with drawn butter. It's special, a real treat for ordinary folk, and it pairs nicely with the earthiness you will find in an older Champagne or sparkling wine.

2. Caviar is the quintessential food pairing with Champagne, and like lobster, it's a rare treat for most of us, the sort of thing that will make your Valentine's Day memorable.

3. Smoked salmon on toast points brings out the smoky, savory notes inherent in the finest Champagne.

4. Oysters on the half shell are a classic with Champagne, which plays off the briny, salty, earthiness of the oyster and cleanses the palate like no other wine can.

5. Potato chips -- I kid you not -- are one of the great matches with Champagne. It's the salt. Champagne loves salt. Just try it!

And here are a couple of bubbly beauties to get you started: Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut ($65) and Domaine Carneros by Taittinger 2013 Brut, Carneros ($33).

Best Value

 

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Whitehaven 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($20) -- From the first whiff, this is obviously a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The initial impression is pungent lemongrass that gives way through aeration to lovely citrus notes of lemon and lime, followed by gooseberry after a bit more air. Crisp and refreshing, it is beautifully balanced and a classic New Zealand sauvignon. It was a platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 94.

Vina Mayor 2014 Tempranillo Crianza, Ribera del Duero DOC, Spain ($20) -- This wine shows exceptional concentration and palate weight for a crianza. With aromas of blackberry and dark cherry and a generous dose of wood spice, it offers excellent complexity for the price. This outstanding value wine is enjoyable now but will likely improve in the cellar over the next two to three years. It was a platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 92.

Tasting Notes

Baileyana 2016 Pinot Noir, Firepeak, Edna Valley ($30) -- Winemaker Christian Roguenant exhibits his deft hand with this stunning pinot noir from the Edna Valley. It sings with notes of dark cherry, spice and wood smoke. On the palate the wine is concentrated and rich without losing the silky elegance for which this grape variety is prized. Fresh and beautifully balanced, it is a wine to drink now or hold for a few years. The quality is sensational for the price, for pinot noir of this ilk routinely retails for $60 and up. It was a platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 95.

Bolla 2010 'Le Origini' Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Italy ($65) -- Bolla is back in a big way, and it really shows in the winery's amarone. The 2010 Le Origini is a monumental wine that exhibits classic amarone flavors of raisins, blue fruits and spice with ultrasmooth tannins, a layered palate and an impressive finish. It was a platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 95 Robert/

Berryessa Gap 2015 Malbec, Coble Ranch Vineyard, Yolo County ($23) -- Yolo County isn't the first place that comes to mind at the mention of California wine country, but there is gold in them thar hills. In this case, it's actually platinum. That's the award this lovely malbec earned at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. It shows an inviting floral nose with plenty of spice and layered aromas of cherry and blueberry. The finish is long and lingering. It's an exceptional value from an up-and-coming winery in an up-and-coming wine region. Rating: 94.

Cala de' Poeti 2015 Maremma DOC, Tuscany, Italy ($25) -- The Maremma region, on the western side of Tuscany close to the Mediterranean Sea, continues to represent exceptional value in Italian reds, particularly the Super Tuscan blends. Though this vintage is 60 percent sangiovese, the money grape of Tuscany, it has generous doses of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, plus some unidentified red varieties. It is a beautifully balanced wine that shows bright acidity, firm tannins and layers of red and black fruit. Add a spice note and you have a perfect wine for grilled meats and winter roasts. It was a platinum award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 93.

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Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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