Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and what could be more romantic than getting the one you love a bottle of wine and some chocolates? Pairing wine with chocolate is a complex task but the rewards are worth the effort. In a successful pairing, one needs to match the sweetness of the chocolate with the fruit characters in the wine for each to benefit. While sweet wines work best, rich red wines with ripe jammy characters (think red Zin) will pair beautifully to dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. We also like to incorporate fruit with the chocolate such as chocolate dipped strawberries and apricots. Below we offer a few suggestions for how to pair wine and chocolate. This Valentine’s day why not surprise your lover with a wine and chocolate tasting after dinner to set the mood for things to come.
With Milk Chocolate: The “milk” in milk chocolate plays best when paired with a softer fruitier red wine like Pinot Noir. It works seamlessly with Riesling and Moscato as long as the sweetness of the wine is close to that of the chocolate. When you eat milk chocolate with fortified wines such Ruby Port and Bual Madeira, the fruit in the wine is accentuated by the combination.
With Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate varies wildly in sugar content. Those with high cacao contents tend to have lower sugar and can pair with jammy red wines like red Zinfandel and Australian Shiraz. The fortified French wine Banyuls, has the ability to bring out ripe berry characters in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has tannin like red wine so it is best to steer away from big tannic reds. Tawny Ports have a bit of wood tannin but enough sweetness to compliment chocolates with high cacao content.
With White Chocolate: The glossy, waxier, texture of white chocolate pairs well with late harvest dessert wines that have bright acidity like a young Riesling Ice wine or a sparkling Moscato D’Asti. The crisp nature of Brachetto d’Acqui, a sweet sparkling wine from Piedmont Italy, works beautifully to provide a cut to the rich butter fat content in white chocolate.
Chocolate with Fruit and Nuts: Let us start with chocolate dipped strawberries. Nothing makes a greater Valentines day impression and these baby’s pair amazingly well with mildly sweet sparkling wines such a Lambrusco or a Demi-Sec Champagne. Chocolate covered nuts marry to the sweet nutty characters in Pedro Ximenez Sherry.
Spice It Up: Why not go out and get some dipping chocolate then try dipping things like candied ginger, dried mango, pineapple and apples. Try dusting your chocolates with things like Cayenne powder or Chinese 5 spice for an added spicy twist.