There are numerous ways to jazz up your Valentine’s Day with wine, and something sparkling or something red are the obvious go-to’s. However, if you’re looking for more than just a wine recommendation, but rather, a wine-themed Valentine’s Day experience to enjoy with your special someone, here are my favorite two ideas that work whether you’re “on a budget” or a “big spender!”  Happy cupid-ing!


1) Romance your special someone with a fondue dinner paired with sparkling wine

Sparkling wine is a great pairing for all fondue; open just one bottle and enjoy it with your special someone as you prepare an all-fondue Valentine’s Day: cheese, meat/vegetable, and chocolate fondue.

Why Sparkling Wine and Cheese Fondue:
The bright acidity and fine bubbles of sparkling wine sweep fat from the palate, refreshing it for the next bite- making it a perfect choice for cheese fondue.

Why Sparkling Wine and Meat Fondue:
The richness of many sparkling wines complements rich foods, like meat fondue.

Why Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Fondue:
Fruit notes (such as strawberry and raspberries) and creamy character of some sparkling wines make it a perfect pairing for chocolate fondue. (You could even add a strawberry or a few raspberries to your glass of bubbles while enjoying it with your dessert.)


On a budget? No problem. Here are a few Sparkling Wine recommendations that won’t break the bank:

  • Australia: Greg Norman Estates Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine (Australia, $16.79). The famed golfer does it again. A great fruit salad of flavors (apricot, mango, and passion fruit) is well-balanced with bright acidity, making it a terrific wine to pair with a wide range of food flavors.
  • California: J Vineyards “20 Cuvee Brut” Non-Vintage (Sonoma County, California, $22.95). This choice was named the “20” to celebrate 20 years of winemaking by J Vineyards. Slightly nutty and toasty with a creamy mouthfeel with millions of tiny dancing bubbles.


Ready to splurge? Even better. You can’t go wrong with the real deal, French Champagne, for this special occasion or any other:

  • Ayala Brut Majeur Non-Vintage Champagne (France, $39.95). Owned by the same family that owns Bollinger, Ayala Brut Majeur is just as good at James Bond’s favorite champagne…at half the price. Notes of brioche on the nose and hints of baking spice make it a delicious yet affordable sparkler.

High-rolling? The grand-daddy of champagne, Dom Perignon, is truly worth it:

  • Dom Perignon- Andy Warhol Collection- 2002 (France, $179.95). There are few things in life that consistently live up to the hype. Dom Perignon is one of them. With superbly fine beads, a beautifully perfumed bouquet, silky smooth finish, if you want pure class and money is no object, go with Dom. More, the Andy Warhol collection bottles are perfect collectibles- and would make a great memento of the special holiday.


2) Chocolate lover’s delight

Red wine and chocolate on Valentine’s Day are like birds of a feather, they just go together. So romance your special someone with a great bottle of red wine this Valentine’s Day, and wow ‘em with a great chocolate finale.


Valentine’s Day Chocolate and Wine Pairing Tips:

  • The % cocoa in the chocolate will determine what to pair it with. For example, we wouldn’t recommend pairing a light, milk chocolate with a heavy Napa Cabernet, as the wine will drown out the chocolate. We also wouldn’t recommend pairing a 90% cacao chocolate with sauvignon blanc, as the flavors will clash dramatically. So think about your wine choice and how bold, rich and powerful the wine is, then make your chocolate choice. White chocolate pairs nicely with Champagne, as does very light milk chocolate. If you like pinot noir, get a slightly darker chocolate. Merlot, darker still. cabernet or zinfandel, super dark and rich. At the most decadent end of the spectrum, pair a nice Port with dark chocolate truffles.
  • Alyssa’s hint: chocolate that is made with a hint of wine, or that has some savory notes in it (like sea salt, curry powder, other funky flavors) often pairs best with wine, as the savory notes provide an awesome contrast to the chocolate and complement the wine.


On a budget? Here are a few less expensive, yet delicious choices:

  • Cannonball Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon (California, $12.99).
  • Swanson Vineyards, “With Love” or “Lucky Night” Merlot (California, $25.00). (They even have a “Please forgive me” if necessary.)


In the mood for a minor splurge?

  • Fisher Vineyards UNITY Bordeaux Blend (California, $39.99). A world-class winemaking family offers an alternative to their $90+, 90+ point in their UNITY Bordeaux blend. Sourced from Sonoma and Napa Vineyards, made with the same luscious and velvety style as their flagship Wedding Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, UNITY would be the perfect pairing for steak dinner…followed by a dark chocolate dessert.


Ready for a major spluge?

  • Corison Kronos Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa, California, $98.00). Cathy Corison was the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year in 2011- for good reason: her feminine-style, smooth, elegant, fruit and cocoa-driven Cabernets are supple, structured, and really as consistently good year over year as any Napa Valley Cabernet. Her Kronos Vineyard Cabernet harkens from the vineyard just outside her back door; its 100+ year old, craggy vines have such low-yield, the grapes- thus wine- that they produce is literally a labor of love. Cathy herself calls the 2007 vintage “spicy and brooding.” Seemingly apropos for Valentine’s Day, no?


Chocolate Picks:

  • Clarke’s Bark (3 oz, $8.50): “old fashioned toffee soaked in Swanson Vineyards’ Merlot, sprinkled with pink salt and then drenched in dark chocolate.”
  • TCHO Chocolate: The chocolate is made like wine, based upon the varietal of cocoa/the intrinsic flavor of the beans. Fun Valentine’s Day idea: taste four flavors (nutty, citrus, chocolatey, and fruity) and discover which you prefer with wine.
Alyssa Rapp is the founder & CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., the leading new media company in the wine space.
Bottlenotes produces The Daily Sip, a FREE daily email newsletter about wine that is sent by email to over 150,000 wine enthusiasts daily, and a national event series called Around the World in 80 Sips®. Rapp is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips® and frequently is called upon as a wine expert by the media, most recently, by Fox & Friends and The Rachael Ray Show.
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