On Valentine’s Day, Drink Your Champagne First!

Make sure your glass of Champagne is long finished before you dive into those chocolates.

Most of us these days drink very dry Champagne and sparkling wine – brut style, or even extra brut. This style is crisp, with mere hints of fruit and plenty of lively acidity. A glass of brut champagne is great to sip on its own, without food, and it’s lower in alcohol than most still wines, too. But pair a brut sparkling wine with dessert or chocolates, and you’ll be very disappointed. The champagne’s elegant flavor and texture will essentially disappear, overwhelmed by the food.

If you’re not simply sipping a glass before dinner, brut champagne or sparkling wine can be paired with lightly salty or smoky foods. Or with very plain dishes, certainly nothing creamy or sweet. Even when the Champagne is such a lovely rosé color that you imagine it might work with something scrumptiously sweet, beware: it won’t. Enjoy the Champagne before you eat.

Case in point: Champagne Pierre Gerbais, Grains de Celles Rosé, Extra Brut

Aurélien Gerbais, the young wine maker, is the fourth-generation winemaker at this small, grower-producer winery in the southern part of the Champagne region. The vineyards, which have been in his family for eight generations, have been farmed organically since the 1990s.

After pouring a glass of this Champagne, at first glance – and first sampling – this rosé seems delicate. The wine is a tawny salmon-pink color, with gentle, fine bubbles and a light aroma of woody spiciness, along with touches of honey and grapefruit enveloped in hint of yeast.

But on the palate, energy emerges, and the racy tingle engages the senses, continuing into the finish with a touch of tart, dark red berries. Alcohol: 12.5%.

PAIRING: Best as an aperitif wine, before dinner.

WHO: Champagne Pierre Gerbais

WHAT: 50% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay, 25% pinot blanc

WHERE: Celles-sur-Ource, Champagne, France

HOW MUCH: around $75