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Ernest Valtri: On Wine

Champagne and Valentine’s Day


I love Valentine’s Day.

It’s a fun, special way to express your love to someone significant. However, the association between Valentine’s Day and Champagne actually has a downside. Don’t get me wrong; popping open a bottle of bubbly to mark the occasion always works. In fact, I believe it works better than either chocolates or roses, or both, though that’s just my wine nut perspective.

The problem is that so many of us wait for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, a birthday, or some other momentous occasion to break out the bubbles. Champagne has the wonderful versatility of pairing terrifically with nearly anything you might eat, from oysters with Beluga caviar, to hot dogs and baked beans. Really.

Champagne, and its sparkling cousins Prosecco (from Italy), Moscato D’Asti (also from Italy), Cava (Spain), Cremant (French, but not from the Champagne region), Franciacorta (more from Italy) Spumante (those Italians again) and our own American sparklers (mostly from California), all contain high levels of acidity and small amounts of sugar. These two components are pretty much at the opposite ends of the wine tasting spectrum. It’s this inclusive quality that makes sparkling wine so food friendly. More so than any other wine in fact.

The food pairing ease and versatility of sparkling wines once inspired me to present a five-course meal with a different bubbler for each course. It worked! It seemed a little odd initially, as most of us, myself included, often think of Champagne and its sparkling cousins to be served only with an introductory course like an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer. It does so well in that role despite an endless variety of hors d’oeuvres and apps, because of that very versatility that makes it so food friendly. So why not try it with everything?

The real stuff, French Champagne, is the best. It has a precision and purity that the best sparklers from around the world can not quite duplicate. Though all the others definitely have their own identities and distinctiveness worth enjoying and appreciating.

Express yourself to the one who means the most to you this Valentine’s Day in every way you like, perhaps including a bottle that bubbles. Then maybe again on a not so festive day, just to enjoy its routine exuberance.

Ernest Valtri of Buckingham is a sculptor, painter, graphic designer, and a former member of the PLCB’s Wine Advisory Council. Please contact Erno at