5 Food & Wine Paring Guidelines For A Perfect Valentine’s Match

It is hard to think about Valentine’s celebration without dinner. And even harder to think about a Valentine dinner without good wines!

That’s why we asked our friend Laura Donadoni – Wine journalist and Wine Educator, Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassador, Certified Sommelier, and online wine personality ‘The Italian Wine Girl‘ – to give us some advice.

If dinner and wine are in the works for you and your Valentine, here a few general food pairing guidelines that will allow you to make smart wine choices and to offer your beloved one the perfect match, not only with your heart but in your meal as well.

Food & Wine Pairing Guidelines

Similar flavors match well

Match the weight and intensity of the food to the same attributes in the wine. For example, the classic V-day treat of fresh briny oysters is a good match for a crisp Muscadet or a sprightly sauvignon blanc, or a bright champagne, while a hearty beef stew will be great with a hefty cabernet sauvignon or syrah.

Acid cleans your palate

A wine’s acids balance out fat and salt. A tangy pinot grigio can act as a palate cleanser when sipped with fried food, such as crunchy calamari.

Sweet tames spice

If something spicy is on the menu, a wine with a bit of sweetness can help to tame the heat. Rieslings are a good bet, as they often have some residual sugar. (On the other hand, wines that are high in alcohol can intensify the spice.)

Tannins love fat

Tannic wines (think of the feeling your teeth get after eating spinach or drinking black tea – that’s the effect that tannin has) are great with rich, fatty proteins, such as short ribs for example, but a bad pairing with the oils found in fish. (However, red wine can go with fish! Just make sure it’s low in tannins, like a Beaujolais or pinot noir, as opposed to a big, bold cabernet sauvignon. And, don’t forget tip #1.)

Desserts are for the sweet

Dessert wines should be at least as sweet as the dessert. Pour a delicate moscato with an apple tart or a creme brule’, a fortified tawny port or a Pedro Ximenez sherry with a decadent chocolate mousse.

There are a lot of wine and chocolate pairing experiences on the market in these days as a Valentine gift, and I have seen a lot of nonsense pairings! If you choose to attend one of these classes, make sure they are not committing the usual mistake: pairing sweet chocolate with dry red wines or champagne. I assure it is NOT pleasant at all.

Local Wine Recommendations

If you are looking for some ideas for the pairing, I selected for you four local wines. San Diego closest wine production area is Temecula, where you can find very interesting varietals and styles. It is just a couple of hours away from Downtown SD, it is worth a trip, the wines I picked won special awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January, where I was honored to be one of the wine judges.

2014 Sangiovese, Lorimar Vineyards and Winery. 42.00 $

Best of Class and Double Gold medal at the SF Chronicle Competition, this Sangiovese reveals fresh cranberries, strawberries, rose petal and white pepper, the tannins are soft and elegant, the acidity is well integrated.
I would pair it with any roasted meat or with homemade lasagna.

2014 Castelletto Dolcetto, Mount Palomar, 40.00 $

Dolcetto is not commonly grown in California and when it is, it is usually produced in a soft light style. This one, which won Best Class and Double Gold in its category at SFCWC, is instead a big, bold red in the Superiore style with firm tannin structure. The nose is of blackberry, pomegranate, fennel, and sweet spice. The taste is bright but complex with sour cherry, cranberry, and dark plum. Best if allowed to breathe before serving. I would pair it with a juicy steak or lamb.

2016 Chenin Blanc soft, Maurice Car‘rie Winery, 20.95$

This is a semi-sweet version of Chenin blanc, it has been awarded a Gold medal at SFCWC and it reveals pear, white flowers, chamomile and honeysuckle hints a the nose. It is pleasant and feminine. It has a good structure and mouthfeel, I would pair it with goat cheese, fresh cheeses, not too savory, poultry or vegetarian main courses.

2017 Vermentino, Robert Renzoni, 30.00$

Double Gold at the SFCWC, this Vermentino is bright and aromatic. Apricots, white peach, mandarin oranges, various tropical fruits with fresh acidity on the finish. Perfect match with your seafood dishes.


Of course, the most important rule of good food and wine is that you enjoy it! And with Laura’s recommendations, you can’t go wrong!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

About Laura

Hailing from Bergamo, Italy, Laura Donadoni was born and bred on classic Italian wine and creative cuisine. Her career started as a columnist and wine and food reporter for several prestigious Italian magazines such as Gambero Rosso and anchorwoman on the radio news for local and national radio networks; she also had her own food and wine show on the Italian broadcasting network Mediapason (second largest private tv network in Italy).

Upon moving to the U.S., she translated her passion into The Italian Wine Girl blog and Youtube channel, spreading wine education and wine culture.

If you want to be really jealous, follow her wine adventures on Instagram at @theitalianwinegirl


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