5@5 - Aphrodisiac food and wine pairings
February 10th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

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.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Holidays • Sip • Think • Valentine's Day • Wine


soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Easy Peasy

    My aphrodisiac is a nice grilled steak and glass of merlot. Keeping it classy and Easy Peasy.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  2. campstove jack

    A loaf of bread,
    A jug 'o wine,
    And I don't need no valentine.

    February 15, 2012 at 12:42 am | Reply
  3. suj

    Does a Baco 22A pair well with a Molette?

    February 15, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
  4. Minorkle

    My favorite is a 1992 Winberry Late Crush Cabernet coupled with a filet of grilled Wild Country Backwater Salmon. Magnificent!

    February 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  5. Don

    Some pairings are classic (eg, oysters and Chablis) and other's creative – ice apple wine and cheddar). Suggesting Bugey (pronounced: boo jhay) for breakfast is misleading. Furthermore, acheiving such a pairing would possibly require visiting the alpine region of France called Savoie, which is better known for its cheese. There one would find out that Bugey can be white, rose or red. Furthermore, it can be still or sparkling. Mostly, it's not sweet – but slightly sour. The best bet might be Bugey Mousseux from Cerdon (possibly what the writer intended). But a better bet for breakfast is Moscato D'Asti – moderately sweet, frizzante, and perfect with eggs and sausage.

    February 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
    • Benn

      Yet I can't get anyone to tell me what wine to pair with an egg mcmuffin and hash browns.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
      • yayafaceplant

        Thunderbird is most preferred with anything McDonald's serves.

        February 15, 2012 at 12:46 am | Reply
  6. johnny

    Every one of those foods and wines are nasty! lol

    February 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  7. Tuoni

    Had some Malbec with Stilton last night. Worked for me.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  8. usojourn

    This article sucks...

    February 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  9. Trailerpark Prince

    Milwaukees Best and beanie-weenies for me and my gal. Genuine Van Camps too. Don't want to go cheap.

    February 13, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  10. geet2go

    I've been talking to some of my meds/sciences friends about this topic lately, and apparently there is not a lot of physiological evidence around the existence of aphrodisiac foods at all? still love the wine pairings though, thanks for the breakdown!

    February 12, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Blue Collar Comedy

      No psychological evidence, eh?

      You ever hear of that old redneck favorite "She's Lookin' Better After Every Beer"?

      The next side on Your Hit Parade is "I Ain't Gone To Bed With No Ugly Woman, But I Sure Woke Up With a Few".

      A couple of brewskis or six alters the psyche like nobody's business. It's tha' dying truth.

      If I had a nickel for every raunchy date made after last call...

      February 13, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • satyromaniac

        he said – physiological – not psychological.
        But I guess anything more than 2 syllables is too much for your inbred intellect

        February 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  11. A. Wolf

    Ah, aphrodisiacs. So completely phony. Any romantic dinner is better than these superstitious suggestions.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  12. pete

    yeah – a couple a bud lights oughtta do it

    February 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  13. Truthwillsetyoufree

    I'm thinking of seducing myself tonight, what is the best wine for a romantic evening with a single guy?

    February 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
    • Ichi

      lotion paired with a napkin

      February 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • katmoondaddy

      If you are ugly, "Mad Dog" ought to do the trick.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
    • Scott

      For you, Thierry & Guy's Fat Bastard Shiraz (A French Wine) would pair real nice with a few pieces of Laughing Cow cheese. Enjoy !

      February 13, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
  14. warm in Alaska

    I love oysters, my favorite.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  15. Joe

    Come on, what actual adult goes out of their way to eat / drink an "aphrodisiac" ?

    Food has zero to do with libido. Kinda gross actually. "Here, I'm going to to fill my gullet with food to digest while we're doing it".

    Kinda childish.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
    • Newmoon

      Oh, I don't know. A romantic dinner with dark chocolate and wine at the end can have quite an impact.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • Truth™@Joe

      Well aren't you just a little bucket of romance?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      And what's with that silly "lingerie" that women wear? I mean, it's not really functional. What if there's a draft? It's really a little disgusting. A man and a woman should enter the room with the lights already off. And they should only touch each other through a hole in a sheet. Otherwise, you're just being dumb.

      Kinda foolish.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
      • katmoondaddy

        Don't forget the two paper bags. Why two? In case one breaks.

        February 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • usojourn

      Yeah...who wants to be fartin' and f**kin?

      February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Denvercherub

      it must suck to be you. you must be single, if not you should be.

      February 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply

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