Valentine's Day is over, Easter is fast approaching and we have now entered the season of the chocolate flood. With chocolate everywhere you look, what's a gal to do?
My vote is to meld two indulgences, wine and the decadent product of the cocoa bean. As wonderful of a match as this might sound, it can be rather tricky to pull it off successfully. Chocolate is full of elements that can make it quite difficult to pair with wine including tannins, sweetness and intense flavours. However, it can be done if you're willing to embark on the arduous ask of tasting an array of combinations.
In order to get the most out of this experience, I recommend experimenting with different matches and getting your friends involved. This makes a great bridal shower activity or just a novel post-meal diversion. The following recommendations are meant to give you a starting point but it is great fun to find new and exciting pairings through experimenting on your own.
Regardless, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
The sweeter the chocolate, the more difficult it will be to pair with a dry wine
The intensity of the chocolate should match the intensity of the wine
If all else fails, look to fortified wines and liqueurs
Dark, Bitter Chocolate with high cocoa content are best paired with full-bodied wines with plenty of structure. In this category, I have had most success with California Cabernets and Zinfandels as well as appassimento style wines (made from partially dried grapes giving lush, concentrated flavours) such Italian Amarone.
A few recommendations include:
Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel 2007, Single Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA 672733, $39.95
La Chamiza Polo Profesional Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Mendoza, Argentina, 128595, $12.95
Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2006, 375ml, Veneto, Italy, 225961, $24.95
Tip: adding an artisinal sea salt such as Hawaiian red clay or black lava salt to your chocolate, helps to make the pairing more interesting as it softens the tannins in the wine and takes away from the bitterness of the chocolate.
Go to the next page for more delicious wine and chocolate pairings!
Milk Chocolate is generally much sweeter than darker styles but has also less intensity. Lush, new-world styles of Pinot Noir can often provide smooth matches but simple ruby style Port and similar fortified sweet wines from the new world provide very pleasurable and almost fail-proof pairings.
For a more exotic pairing try a rich Pinotage such as the decadent and chocolately Diemersfontein below:
Quinta Do Portal Fine Ruby Port 2008, Portugal, 87254, $15.95
Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009, Wellington, South Africa, 956409, $19.95
White Chocolate is usually the lightest in terms of intensity as well as the sweetest style. Success in this category has been mainly with bubbles such as Demi-Sec Champagne and the more modestly priced choice of Italian Moscato d'Asti. Occasionally, a rich, buttery Chardonnay from Australia or California can also provide a deliciously creamy experience but the results are less certain.
Bailly Lapierre Reserve Brut Cremant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France, 991562, $17.95
Ghione Anna Moscato D'asti 2009, Piedmont, Italy, 192443, $15.95
Happy Tasting! To access a shopping list of these wines available at your nearest LCBO location, click here.