Think of Valentine’s Day, and what color comes to mind? Not white. Maybe pink. Certainly red.

Many will pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly in a romantic gesture. Champagne and other sparklers do, indeed, pair nicely with almost anything. Romance is almost inherent in serving sparkling wine. But, being a contrarian and lover of all wines red, I’m opting for a red Valentine’s Day.

Just to bolster my case, I turned to a renowned expert, columnist, accredited sommelier, writer, wine judge, author, raconteur and lovely person, Natalie MacLean (her free Internet newsletter is at www.nataliemaclean.com).

We’re both fans of red wines, particularly zinfandels, and we’re both admittedly cheap. So still-reasonably-priced zins often are the go-to beverage for almost every occasion.

“Does zin serve you as well as it does me with chocolates, especially dark chocolate?” she asked in a recent e-mail. “I think some tannic fruit is a nice counterpart to dark and even to lighter milk chocolates. I love zinfandel with dark chocolate: The wine’s blackberry and plum flavors marry well with the darker flavors of this chocolate.”

So there it is. Break out the Hershey’s or our own Angell & Phelps (a welcome treat) and uncork a red zin.

Natalie also recommends something I’ve long loved but not had in ages: “Late harvest zinfandel also works well because of its extra sweetness and richness.” It’s a dessert wine made by a number of zin producers and usually vinted in half-bottles.

“The lightly fizzy Italian sparkler Brachetto D’Aqui, with its ripe notes of strawberries, would be divine with decadent cake,” also notes Natalie.

“Even though I’m serving (sparkling wines) more often, they still aren’t exactly a staple,” she says. “But I’ve always felt they’re the ultimate pairer with most anything. A (semi-sweet) bubbly would be lovely with a light chocolate dessert. In wine, you can find all the flavors, richness and sweetness of chocolate, but chocolate just doesn’t have that added bonus of alcohol!”

Just one recent notable example of a formidable zin is Chase Family Cellars Hayne Vineyards 2003 Napa Zinfandel (an uncheap $45). It promised and delivered ripe black cherry and plum flavors with a background of toasty vanilla. The nose was dark cherry with a hint of volatile eucalyptus, but we also found some mocha notes on the palate that made it ideal for some very dark chocolate. The body was full (not quite chewy, but still a big wine), and the finish extended way past dessert.

So, Valentines, candy’s dandy, but, hey, it’s hard to drink a toast with it. But wine and chocolate are a hard combination to beat for a Cupid caper.

For more articles on chocolate and wine pairings, click on the tag below called “Chocolate & Wine” …