Wine Guy: Dessert wine ties together a romantic affair


The most memorable words I ever heard about the legion of women who hope, or expect, to be wowed by their significant other on Valentine’s Day innocently came from a 1990s radio advertisement when the actor deadpanned, “It’s their Super Bowl.”

Admittedly, I’m a guy’s guy and therefore the ultimate “Hallmark Holiday” generally leaves me with barely half a smile. What is most important is that my wife knows she is special - not only Valentine’s Day, but every day. And, since I’m not yet leader of the free world, I know I must succumb to societal rules now and then, and this Feb. 14 will be no different.

Like the NFL’s version of the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day is nothing short of big business. The U.S. Greeting Card Association (there’s an organization for everything folks!) estimates approximately 1 billion Valentines are sent each year, 85 percent of which are sent by women.

Teleflora, the mega-flower deliver company, spent more than a few roses on a commercial aired during the 2009 version of the big game to remind, err, guilt the male audience into buying their sweethearts flowers to express their love. Not that there is anything wrong with flowers, but aren’t they a little one-sided?

This year, instead of a one-way flower bouquet, I’ll be mixing together a sensual dessert wine alongside a sinfully delicious sweet treat, which will serve as an intimate indulgence we both will savor.

When thinking of dessert wine, port is a great place to begin. Originally, port came from Portugal and was fortified with neutral grain spirits to help keep it from spoiling while being shipped to England. The spirits halted the fermenting process leaving residual sugar in the wine. It didn’t take long to figure out that sweet fortified wine such as this was luxurious on the palate and has since proliferated around the globe.

There are piles of styles when it comes to port, with the two broadest categories being “ruby” and “tawny.” Tawnies are named after the color they turn during the winemaking process due to extended time in a barrel. The flavors imparted by the wood help tawnies pair well with cheesecake, crème brulee and other creamy desserts that feature baking spices. Ruby style ports are deep red in color and offer more dark berry flavors which marry perfectly with chocolate. Think black forest cake in a bottle. If you want to go the chocolate route, stick with a ruby style port.

Sweet Champagne is another option when planning an intimate evening. Champagnes are rated according to sweetness, which is usually listed right on the label. Most commonly found on store shelves are (from dry to sweet) brut, extra-dry and sec. Stick with extra-dry or sec for a sweeter wine that will work wonders with fruit or fruit-based desserts.

In a nutshell, match sweet with sweet. If having a baked dessert, try a tawny. With a dessert fruit plate, give a sweeter style of Champagne a try. For my wife and me, the ultimate romantic evening begins with the opulence of a ruby style port paired with chocolate truffles.

The rest is a secret.