What are the best wines to serve with a Valentine’s Day meal at home?

Food for thought: Avoid the sea of tables for two, and plan a special meal at home, with Champagne to start, and wine pairings

Q. It is Valentine’s Day next week and I am cooking a special meal at home for my girlfriend. We are having a classic retro menu – prawn cocktail and fillet steak. What would you recommend we have to drink with those dishes please? I would like to serve something a bit special, given the occasion, and as my girlfriend is a wine lover, I would like to surprise her with something unusual.

A. I think you are doing the right thing in avoiding restaurants. A meal at home is far more romantic and your classic retro menu looks great – and relatively easy to cook. The biggest problem with dinner à deux is bottle size. If you want a glass of fizz each, followed by the same of white wine and then a glass or two of red wine, it means opening up three bottles, and you certainly don’t want to over-indulge at a romantic dinner.

I would suggest starting off with a half-bottle of Champagne as it will give you two glasses each, one before dinner and then one with your starter. Champagne is one of the great wines to drink with food and would go nicely with the richness of a prawn cocktail.

You could have a half-bottle of white wine on standby in the fridge just in case. A chardonnay from Burgundy or elsewhere would do nicely. As for the Champagne, this is a special occasion, so I would go for one of the better, well-known brands; Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Moët & Chandon are all on song at the moment. The only problem with half-bottles is price. You can expect to pay more than half the price of a full bottle. You could buy a full bottle and stopper it for the following night.

And so to the fillet steak. The good news is that most red wine goes well with steak, so you can choose your favourite bottle – or even better, your Valentine’s favourite wine. Classic matches would be red Bordeaux or any other cabernet sauvignon or merlot, Malbec, Chianti Classico, Burgundy or a New Zealand pinot noir, or maybe a Ribera del Duero from Spain. Fillet steak is less robust so I would tend towards lighter red wines, probably a pinot noir, a red Burgundy if you can afford it.

Most good wine shops will have a few half-bottles of Champagne to choose from, as well as a range of pilots from Burgundy and elsewhere. Looking around online, I see Whelehanswines.ie has a half-bottle of Piper Heidsieck for €32, a half-bottle of Chablis (€15) and a mouth-watering array of red Burgundy.

The above three wines are not cheap but they will certainly impress. You can be quite sure that you are paying considerably less than in a restaurant.

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