Valentine’s Day is upon us once again and perhaps you are considering sweets for your sweet. If you are reading this column hopefully you are considering wine for your sweet as well--or at least for yourself! In my opinion, wine and chocolate are the necessities of life--nutritional supplements, really. They are both aphrodisiacs and have health benefits to boot! So why not match the two together?
Despite their commonalities, it can be challenging to pair wine with chocolate. The level of flavanols--antioxidant compounds in fruits and cocoa reported to promote cardiovascular health--in wine and chocolate sometimes compete with each other. A dry wine with a dark chocolate will taste bitter and sour together. Not exactly the pleasurable outcome one would hope for! But I’m determined to find ways to allow my two favorite things work well together on my palate and pass those on to my students.
The flavonoids in dark chocolate are responsible for all the health benefits but they are also what can cause it to have a bitter taste. When selecting wines to pair with these earthy treats we will want to balance out these characteristics with wines that are as intensely-flavored. These wines tend to be in the dessert category such as original Ports from Portugal, which have some cinnamon spice notes, or Port-style wines from other areas, that are sweet enough to moderate the bitterness. Other options are sweet sherry wines--look for “PX” or “Pedro Ximenez--“ which will lend some caramel and nutty attributes to your chocolate.
Slightly easier to pair than its darker counterpart, milk chocolate has a higher cream and fat content that makes it compatible to more wines. Try a ganache-filled truffle with a fruit-forward, jammy Zinfandel or a dark, full-bodied California Syrah or Australian Shiraz. Recioto della Valpolicella--essentially a sweeter version of Italian Amarone --also pairs fantastically with milk chocolate if you can find it! If your milk chocolate has a good bit of cocoa butter and very light in flavor, you can try experimenting with a New World Pinot Noir or Merlot as well.
Since it lacks cacao white chocolate is not a chocolate in the true sense, but it’s ubiquitous during this time of year, and by far the most wine-friendly of the chocolate spectrum. It’s much more mellow and buttery in flavor and texture than “true chocolate” which can make it a great partner with sweeter sparkling wines such as Moscato d’Asti or a Prosecco. Another option is a German Riesling or Gewurztraminer. While also on the sweeter end, these wines tend to be acidic which can balance out the fat in your treat.
Armed with these pairing tips, you should as prepared as Cupid to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Local confectionaries such as Evolution Through Chocolate and the Gourmet Shop have a beautiful selection of sweet treats to pair with your other sweet treat. How about an intimate wine and chocolate pairing experience? Let me guide you through a private tasting at the newly-opened ViniCola Tasting Room and we can discover new combinations together.