By Etty Lewensztain, Wine Expert for the Menuism Wine Blog
Wine is intrinsically related to the celebration of Valentine's Day. Can you imagine a romantic V-Day dinner replete with an array of IPAs, porters and stouts? How about some shots of añejo tequila or smoky Mezcal? Not quite what you had in mind, huh?
Libations of all types are said to release endorphins, boost our happiness levels and loosen our inhibitions, and you know what that means. But what is it about wine specifically that speaks to the romantic voice in us and can instantly put us in the mood?
For starters, the relationship between wine, love and sexuality dates back to Greek and Roman mythology. Dionysus (called Bacchus by the Romans), who was the Olympian god of wine, intoxication, and the grape harvest, was also the god of ecstasy. No coincidence there!
An Italian research study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine a few years ago posited that red wine has the ability to significantly increase women's sex drive and even improve their sexual function and performance. According to the study, antioxidants found in red wine can actually widen blood vessels and facilitate blood flow to the body's most sensitive parts. Cheers to that!
Moreover, wine, and sparkling wine in particular, is romantic and celebratory in a way that other alcoholic beverages simply are not. You'd be hard-pressed to find a beverage that screams romance more than an effervescent flute of champagne. Perhaps it's the fact that champagne doesn't come cheap and is thus naturally relegated to special occasions, or maybe it's the spritzy effect of champagne's delicate carbonation that makes bubbly so sexually scintillating.
So to help you plan the ultimate wine-soaked V-Day, I've put together a list of three types of wine you should drink this February 14th and the aphrodisiac foods that pair swimmingly with them.
Champagne is a must on V-Day and no other aphrodisiac food speaks to champagne more than a dozen raw oysters on the half shell. Oysters are extremely rich in zinc, which nourishes the prostate gland and boosts testosterone production in men. OK, brace yourself for this one, but oysters also bear a textural and structural resemblance to aroused female genitals and are thus a no-brainer on Valentine's Day. For the most unique experience, choose a small "grower" Champagne as opposed to a more famous, commercial brand.
As I mentioned above, red wine contains antioxidants that allow the blood vessels to expand, facilitating blood flow to the body's key erogenous zones. Needless to say, your still wine of choice for Valentine's Day should definitely be something red, not white.
Now when it comes to finding the best aphrodisiac food pairings for red wine, spicy foods may not rise to the top of the list, because generally speaking, the tannins found in most reds can intensify the sensation of heat in spicy foods, causing the foods to taste even spicier. But on V-Day, a little extra spice is a very good thing.
Chiles are a well-known aphrodisiac and contain a chemical called capsaicin, which stimulates the nerve endings, encourages the release of endorphins, and can raise your pulse, giving you a natural high. Try pairing a medium-bodied red like a Côtes du Rhône or a Spanish Tempranillo with a Moroccan lamb tagine with spicy harissa, or some red chile-flecked Korean or Chinese food.
Sweets for Your Sweet
Valentine's Day is one of the few occasions during the year when dessert wine is an absolute must. Full-bodied dessert wines such as port, banyuls, madeira and Pedro Ximenez sherry happen to pair wonderfully with dark chocolate, perhaps the most famous of aphrodisiac foods. Chocolate contains phenethylamine, a nutrient that enhances mood and is the chemical we produce in our brains when we fall in love. Like red wine, dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, which helps increase blood flow to the body's most sensitive parts.
Honey, a popular symbol of sexual ripeness, is another well-documented aphrodisiac food that can boost energy and stamina due its rich vitamin B and amino acid content. The term "honeymoon" is no coincidence, since legend holds that newlyweds drank a honey elixir on the night of their nuptials. Pair honey-hued dessert wines like sauternes, muscat, Jurancon, or Tokaji with honey-drenched desserts like baklava or aged cheeses drizzled with wildflower or truffle honey.
Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine-obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the U.S., and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @PlonkOnline.