Aphrodisiac Food and Wine Pairings
CNN Eatocracy Editors
Two-time James Beard Award-winning authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg know a thing or two about matchmaking. They have been coupled both personally and professionally for the past two decades researching and writing their bestselling books such as The Flavor Bible, What to Drink with What You Eat, Culinary Artistry, and their latest The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.
While they are happy to share a few pairing tips on what underlies great matches, they insist that the real beauty is in experiencing these peak pairings for yourself to see how they work their magic for you and your palate.
And what better time to give a few (or all) of them a try than the days leading up to (or even following) Valentine’s Day? After all, it’s impossible for aphrodisiacs to do their thing if they’re paired with the wrong partner — so there’s plenty of motivation to find the right matches for your Valentine’s Day repasts.
Here are a few of Karen and Andrew’s favorite aphrodisiac food and wine pairings and why they work:
1. Raw Oysters + Crisp White Wines
Oysters are the number-one aphrodisiac for their innate characteristics, from appearance to flavor — and the way in which they’re slurped down offers its own sensuality. But pair briny bivalves with a tannic Cabernet, and you’ll likely end up with an awful metallic taste in your mouth. When you opt instead for a crisp white wine — from classic Chablis or Champagne to lesser-known-but-no-less-delicious Rkatsiteli — your pleasure is enhanced: the acidity does double-duty, refreshing the palate from the saltiness while cutting the oysters’ richness.
Pairing tip: Consider a match’s pH level (i.e. acidity vs. alkalinity) — and counterbalance saltiness (which has a higher pH) with acidity (which lowers the pH).
2. Asparagus + Gruner Veltliner
“Green”-flavored aphrodisiacs asparagus and artichokes are two of the most notorious wine killers. But pairing them with the right wines — high-acid whites with their own “green” notes, such as Grüner Veltliner or grassy Sauvignon Blanc — will counteract the greenness and allow the wine’s fruit to shine through. By the way, Le Bernardin sommelier Aldo Sohm’s just-released Grüner Veltliner, which he makes with Austrian winemaker Gerhard Kracher, is the best we’ve ever tasted — with asparagus or otherwise.
Pairing tip: Green loves green — pair green veggies with a Grüner Veltliner or grassy Sauvignon Blanc.
3. Cheddar Cheese + Ice Cider
Apples, the so-called “fruit of temptation,” work their aphrodisiac magic both on the plate and in the glass. While The Flavor Bible celebrates the classic pairing of apples with cheddar as found everywhere from homespun apple pie with melted cheese to upscale cheese plates, we love the way these two flavors interact between the plate and the glass just as much. Ice cider is made from frozen apples, so it has a deeply concentrated apple flavor. We first fell in love with Neige from Canada, but have since discovered Eden Ice Cider from Vermont which is killer with a great Vermont cheddar.
Pairing tip: If the flavors are compatible on a plate, they’ll also work together from plate to glass.
4. Dark Chocolate + The Holy Trinity
As life-long chocolate lovers, one of the things that made us fall just as hard for wine was the fact that certain wines had the magical ability to make chocolate taste even better. Chocolate lovers know that the “holy trinity” of wines that best enhance chocolate are Banyuls (from France), port (from Portugal), and PX sherry (from Spain). When in doubt, choose by your favorite movie candy: Fans of Goobers should opt for tawny port, while Raisinets enthusiasts will prefer PX sherry — and chocolate-covered cherry lovers might love Banyuls best of all.
Pairing tip: Trust tried-and-true classic pairings, which are classic for a reason — they work.
5. Breakfast + Bugey
What’s more romantic than continuing your Valentine’s Day celebration the morning after? It’s always a good idea to have a good brunch wine on hand for such occasions — and we recommend Bugey, which is a slightly sweet, strawberry-noted semi-sparkling French rosé. Its fruitiness pairs well with everything from strawberries (a great breakfast-time aphrodisiac) to waffles, and the wine’s sweetness helps it stand up to maple syrup’s own. As a bonus, it’s low in alcohol (about 8 percent), so you can still get on with your day afterward.
Pairing tip: When in doubt, opt for a rosé sparkling wine — a rosé can morph from a white to a red as need be, and bubbles go with virtually everything.