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Dating With Wine: How To Approach A Seemingly Daunting Wine List On Valentine’s Day

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash


It’ll be Valentine’s Day soon and everyone knows what that means: time to prepare for that special, romantic dinner date guaranteed to impress one’s significant other.

I can already see it: an intimate dinner for two with music in the background, sumptuous food…

Then it happens.

The wine list arrives and it’s a shock to the system with its length, complexity, quantity, and European terms that render people speechless at the thought of pronouncing anything. ("Is it pee-no nwar? Nwah?")

While I assure people that it’s perfectly acceptable to point out wine from the menu (to avoid tongue twisters), I do have some tips to simplify finding the perfect wine for a dinner date (or lunch, no judgment).


Start with the Food

It’s easier to begin finding the perfect match (no pun intended) by first knowing what food to order. One can do the reverse by ordering food to match the wine, but I’d reserve this for people who have had more experience with wine.


Color Matching

Normally, wine lists are arranged according to color. This allows for a simple trick: Red meat to red wine, white meat to white wine. Some will argue that there are exceptions that have to do with how the food is cooked and particular characteristics of the wine. It seems complicated, so I often let people decide if it’s worth the exercise for a dinner date.


Regional Matching

A secondary way that wine lists tend to be arranged after the color is by country. Wine producing regions tend to produce wine that naturally pair with their food, so it’s easy to imagine a U.S. wine paired with a New York striploin, or a Chilean wine with Chilean sea bass.


Quality Matching

There are no rules against matching the Filipino BBQ liempo with Zinfandel (they’re actually great together), but I find it a shame to match a pricey bottle with something on the more affordable end of the food menu.


Character Matching

This is where a little wine knowledge (or a proper app, or a knowledgeable server) is needed. One can either complement or contrast. As an example of the former, powerful wines tend to go with more flavorful food; otherwise, one tends to drown out the other (which is why bold Cabernet Sauvignons go wonderfully with a juicy steak). The latter means to minimize the “unpleasant” characteristics of food, like in the case of matching a highly acidic wine with fishy or malansa food, which is why raw oysters are classically paired with sparkling wine.


Know What to Avoid

There are some pairs that are difficult to enjoy, like spicy food with robust red wine, or Chardonnay with cilantro (it tends to be a pungent mess).


Be Adventurous!

I know I’ve given many tips up until this point, but as fellow winos would attest, once you gain confidence, it’s so much fun to experiment with different out-of-the-box pairings. I’ve had a 4-year-old Viognier (an aromatic white) with Thai green curried pork (red meat). The spices of the food complemented the wine’s aroma, and it had enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of the pork.



If this is all too overwhelming, it’s also a great idea to plan the date in a place where the people are well versed in food and wine pairings. The place doesn’t need to be fancy either. Planet Grapes is a great example because they have an intelligently curated wine selection, and the food items (conceptualized by the talented Chef Gus Sibayan) have excellent wine pairing suggestions.


Photos by Gail Sotelo

Cover photo by L E on Unsplash


Planet Grapes
G/F, Shangri-La The Fort BGC, (02) 772-6614
North Wing, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City, (02)531-8207, (02)532-2950
Gail Sotelo has a WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits. She is a wine consultant, blogger, and lecturer. She owns the drink blog which aims to make wine and other drinks accessible to everybody, and holds classes at Enderun Colleges.