This year, celebrate Valentine's Day with a little nuance.
Wine and chocolate are the classic accompaniments to the romance of Feb. 14. But why not spend a little time figuring out what it is about chocolate and what it is about wine that makes each one the perfect (or imperfect) partner for the other?
Chocolate, like love, comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, flavors and compositions. Wine, also like love, comes in a wide variety of intensities, textures, flavors, and characteristics.
Putting them together, like love, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
This year, see what does it for you.
Try this. Go to a chocolate shop — or the specialty chocolate section of your local grocery — and choose four or five flavors that appeal to you in some way. Maybe it's the salted caramel chocolate. Maybe it's the darkest chocolate available. Maybe it's white chocolate. The specific varieties don't matter. What matters is that there's a range of different samples.
Then go to a wine shop — or take a good look at the bottles you have at home - and, just like with the chocolates, choose four or five different "flavors" that appeal to you for some reason. I'd suggest a bottle each of something sparkling, white, red, and a fortified wine such as port or cognac. Specific brands don't matter. Again, what matters is that there's a range of samples.
Then go home and set up the tasting. You can arrange it so that the chocolate is your fixed point and you taste through the wines one by one with the "fixed" chocolate. Or you can arrange it so that the wine is your fixed point and you taste through the chocolates one by one with the "fixed" wine.
Either way is completely fine. Just make sure there are enough portions of chocolate and enough wine glasses ready for the number of your guests.
What is usually the curveball for me when I do this tasting is the white chocolate and the white wine.
Partly it's because of preconceived notions, such as white chocolate isn't "really" chocolate or that (as you see in so many popular images of wine and chocolate pairings) the wine has to be red and the chocolate dark.
But what often ends up happening with the white wine and white chocolate in the tasting is exactly what's so entertaining about curveballs: you just never know.
Maybe you take a pass and wait for a better pitch. The pairing could completely strike out. Or you could — almost by pure chance — hit a home run with the perfect combination.
You never know unless you try.
And if you're wondering about the baseball metaphor, remember that Valentine's Day this year is also the day that Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Play ball!
Manchester resident Cathy Huyghe is a regular Times columnist and the founder of Red White Boston, which links wine seekers to the wines they seek. Find out how at http://theredwhiteboston.com.