It’s ridiculous to assign gender to anything anymore. We barely assign it to humans because we think it diminishes possibilities. Pipe fittings seem to be the last bastion of gender even as what they were named for looses definition. But Valentine’s Day approaches, and I’m retro enough to think of it as driven by women. At least they seem to champion the occasion to a greater extent than men if you look at the advertising and the research that it draws from. Men pay attention, to please women.
Regardless of chocolates and flowers that are associated with the holiday, wine is a more integral part of the Valentine celebration because it accompanies the intimate meal for two that marks the celebration. My wine guide for the Valentine’s Day supper, rife with gender biases, I admit, could be as simple as champagne, but a bit of complication makes the meal more interesting.
Sparkling wine is everyone’s choice for a festive occasion, but women buy more of it than men. It should introduce the ritual supper together with appetizers. Sweet slices of prosciutto di Parma, bright Castelvetrano olives, and earthy caponata served with the most beautiful bread available will be on my table. Maybe the sparkling wine is the finest Prosecco from Cartezze. But if that goes over budget, Prosecco from Valdobbiadene is less than half the cost and is deliciously fresh and lively. Some may prefer more complex champagne with intense and yeasty flavors. Classic sparkling wine made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Munier, and Pinot Noir was invented by the French and has two spellings, Champagne with an upper case “C” from the Champagne region of France and champagne with a lower case “c” from elsewhere. The best prices come from elsewhere, especially from Italy. The Lombardia and Trentino-Alto Adige regions in northern Italy both grow champagne grapes, and these wines are as complex as the best from the Champagne region but cost half as much. And from California, Roederer from Anderson Valley is at the top of the list.
The Valentine supper should be simple so that it does not interfere with communication on any level, which is basically the point of the holiday. The main course that comes to mind is ravioli with a meat filling that can be served with just sage quickly braised in fine extra virgin olive oil. The sage can then be scattered over the ravioli and the olive oil drizzled. A dusting of grated Parmigiano cheese completes the dish. Almost any lighter red wine would complement ravioli, but it’s definitely not a candidate for Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, Sangiovese from Tuscany, Valpolicella from the Veneto, Sicilian wines from Mt. Etna are just a few suggestions. From California, Grenache or Pinot Noir would be fine pairings. Whoever is cooking, he, she, or both, this will be a breeze.
The salad is composed of organic field greens with slices of winter pears and bright pomegranate, served with what remains of the sparkling wine. And finally, dessert. No need to deliberate here. Whatever it is, the flavor is chocolate. Nine out of ten people are fans of chocolate, but women consume more than men and are more likely to crave it, according to a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and others. Best of all, the night is young after this simple but delicious dinner. Happy Valentine’s Day!