Enhance the delectable flavors of chocolate and wine
By Sue Baldani
If you want to delight your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, give them a gift of premium chocolates. To really make an impression, pair those with the right bottle of wine.
As with savory foods, certain wines can bring out the flavors of chocolate in a most extraordinary way. Since there are many different varieties of chocolate – milk, dark, and white – and many types of wines, there are certain important criteria to follow to ensure that you enhance both flavors, and not overwhelm or dilute them. To save you the time of taste testing and matching on your own (although that would be enjoyable), wine and chocolate experts have already done the work for you.
For instance, they have found that for a delicately flavored milk chocolate, a heavy full-bodied red will eradicate its subtle flavors. Or, for an intensely flavored chocolate, such as a bitter dark chocolate, the delicate flavors of a light white wine will be overshadowed.
It’s also important to match the sweetness of the wine with the sugar content of the chocolate. Dark chocolate is best paired with drier wines, while white and milk chocolate should be served with sweeter wines. These will enhance the flavors of both instead of competing against each other. And it’s always better to go a step up in sweetness than a level down.
While Valentine’s Day often calls for Champagne, it’s best to abstain while consuming chocolate. Although delicious, its dry and astringent nature doesn’t pair well with the confection.
There are many varieties of dark chocolate from slightly bitter to very bitter. That has to be taken into account when selecting the best pairing since both dark chocolate and wine contain tannins, and the intense concentration of these on the palate would not be favorable. So, be sure to pair a high-percentage cocoa chocolate with a more full-bodied wine such as a Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Grenache or Malbec. A nice vintage port would also work well.
Made from less cacao but with a high amount of sugar, milk chocolate is a favorite among many chocolate aficionados and much easier to pair with a wide variety of wines since the milk content makes it milder.
Lighter, fruitier wines and reds with a lower alcohol content pair well, as do fortified wines like Muscat or Tokay. A Lambrusco, Riesling, Moscato Noir, and other aged reds also work. A ruby port would be a nice complement too.
While not technically a “true chocolate,” it’s still a favorite of many. Made from cocoa butter, a high concentration of sugar and cream, white chocolate is delectably sweet and due to the cream, high in fat. It’s this fat that brings out the flavors and notes of a sweet wine.
Wines such as a Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and a Moscato d’Asti pair nicely. A rosé port is also a nice accompaniment to this type of chocolate.
When choosing the best pairings, it’s important to factor in what other ingredients are in the chocolate, such as nuts, fruit and caramels. Most aged sparkling reds pair very well with flavored chocolates.
For a dark raspberry, a good choice would be a Cabernet, while a dark orange would be nice with a Botrytis Semillon. Pair a citrus-infused white chocolate with a Sauvignon Blanc and a hazelnut chocolate with a Brachetto d’Acqui for a flavorful and delicious combination.
Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.