How To Choose A Champagne For Valentine’s Day, According To A Sommelier

Food & Drink

Nothing pairs better with romantic holidays than wine. Beer seems out of place, and cocktails far too fussy — you rather spend your evening staring into someone’s eyes than shaking up ingredients. And while red wine certainly works well with any manner of romantic spreads, it certainly doesn’t capture the celebratory nature of Champagne.

While you could reach for any Champagne, consider that there are different bottles for different occasions. Just like there’s a broad spectrum of red wines — different regions, different varietals, different methods — there’s also a wide range of sparkling wines.

“Sexy times call for sexy wines, and there’s nothing sexier than Champagne,” says Cara Patricia, an advanced sommelier and co-founder of DECANTsf, a women- and queer-owned bottleshop-slash-bar in San Francisco.

She makes a strong case for popping Champagne beyond a starting sip — pair it with braised lamb shanks or cracking a cuvee for caviar. “There is a style of Champagne that can pair with almost anything,” says Patricia. Still searching for a bottle for love day? Here’s her go-tos.

With Richer Mains: Vintage Rosé Champagne

“For heavier fare, you cannot go wrong with vintage rosé Champagne, especially if it has a high dose of still red wine or it’s made via the saignée method (a rarity in Champagne) that gives it a little more weight and a light tannin bite,” says Patricia. “I’ve been blown away by pairing Dom Pérignon 1978 P3 Rosé with braised lambshakes, or Moussé Fils 2017 ‘Infusion de Meunier’ Rosé de Saignée Special Club with Peking Duck.” If you don’t have four figures to spend on vintage Dom, consider a newer release.

With Caviar: Blanc de Blanc

With caviar, I love a generous Blanc de Blancs,” says Patricia. “The salty pop of the briny caviar pearl brings out the fruitiness in Blanc de Blancs like Ruinart or Charlot-Tanneux ‘Elia’ Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru Extra Brut. If you’re going all out with a full-bodied, creamy caviar like a Golden Osetra, match it with a Champagne like Krug Grande Cuvée, which has much more body and brioche-y nuttiness thanks to its long lees aging and higher percentage of Pinot Noir.”

On a Budget? Half Bottles and Multi-Vintage Blends

“If you want to stay budget-friendly while still celebrating with true Champagne, look for multi-vintage blends from lesser-known villages,” says Patricia. While it still offers all the delicate flavors of a true Champagne, it doesn’t have the prestige of a single vintage. (Read: more bang for your buck.)

“You can also find many Champagnes in half-bottles, so you can save money without overindulging,” says Patricia. A petite bottle is a great opener for the evening, or an excellent palate cleanser between courses. Or, save your money on the food and spend it on Champagne. “A quick pasta enhanced with tinned lobster or clams can be lovely with classic styles of Champagne like Paul Laurent ‘Cuvée du Fondateur’ or Pascal Ponson ‘Prestige Tradition’,” says Patricia.

Still searching for an option? “Do yourself a favor and shop at a boutique wine shop where there is a sommelier or expert able to guide you,” says Patricia. “Let them know what is on the menu and how much you’re willing to spend, and they’ll direct you to a delicious selection to make your Valentine’s night super special.”

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