Wine and Chocolate: Valentine's Day Guide


California Blend and Dark Chocolate Bark

Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage 2010 ($14)

This Bordeaux-inspired California Central Coast blend has notes of ripe, jammy blueberry and cherry and sweet spice on the nose. On the palate, the wine is earthy, with notes of ash and green pepper. This is a straightforward wine, with more fruit on the nose than on the palate on the palate.

Pair with: Jacques Torres Dark Chocolate Bark ($1.75/ounce)

For dark chocolate, this is mild and nutty (combined with roasted pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts), and it fills in the wine, accentuating the fruit notes. The overall character of both the wine and chocolate are complimented, and the combination is in balance.

Mulled Wine and Chili Chocolate

Shutterstock, Green & Black

Mulled wine is served warm to hot. Recipes vary, but typically they include red wine (or Port), cinnamon, and a sweetening component. Other popular ingredients include citrus, nutmeg, and ginger.

Pair with: Green & Black’s 3.5 ounce Spiced Chili Chocolate Bar ($3.49)

The warmth of the wine melts the chocolate, opening up and smoothing out the spice and peppercorn. Because the wine is mulled, the drink has a level of complexity, and can therefore stand up to the spice and complexity of the chocolate. Think of it as a Winter Sangria, with the warmth of the liquid, the alcohol, and the spice the perfect way to stay warm. It’s also easy to make large batches ahead of time, and it’s unique.

Barolo and Macadamia Nuts

Damilano "Lecinquevigne" Barolo 2008 ($35)

Stylistically, this is an approachable, fruitier, early drinking style of Barolo. It is fruit forward, with notes of red fruit, hard candy, rose, dried lavender and perfume. It has juicy acidity, ripe soft tannins, and hints of leather, and a lasting finish.

Pair With: Jacques Torres Milk Chocolate and Powdered Sugar Macadamia Nuts ($8.50/1/4 lb bag)

The soft sweetness of the powdered sugar and milk chocolate combo enhanced the fruitiness of the wine and made for a truly harmonious combination. On the other hand, chocolate that was less sweet and more tannic accentuated the tannin and the alcohol in the wine. 

Mix and Match: Cabernet and Milk Chocolate

Le Pich Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($45)

This Cab is rich and complex with dark brambly fruit, graphite, and roasted coffee notes, and generous, firm tannins.

Pair With: Jacques Torres Milk Chocolate Bark ($1.75/ounce)

This milk chocolate bark was quite flexible with dry red wines. It’s got smooth, sweet, and nutty notes and marries well with some wines that may otherwise be problematic. It slightly softened the alcohol of the wine, to its benefit.

Mulderbosch Faithful Hound 2010 ($19)

This Bordeaux-style blend from Stellenbosch has concentrated notes of oak, dark chocolate, and green pepper, and the Cab Franc is showing upfront, giving the wine a savory quality.  It’s ripe on the palate, earthy, spicy, and peppery.

Pair With: Green & Black’s 3.5 ounce Milk Chocolate Almond Bar ($3.49)

This pairing had some fascinating effects. First, the wine leaned toward a green, earthy note until it was paired with the milk chocolate; the chocolate brought forth a fruit component in the wine. It also filled out the palate, giving the wine a pleasing, creamy texture.

You can mix and match these Cab/Milk Chocolate combinations. Overall, the chocolate filled out the palate, giving the wines a creamy texture. The sweetness of the milk chocolate balanced the astringency of the wines, rounding them out, softening them, and making them more approachable. 

Pinot Noir and Vanilla Roobois Chocolate

Hardys Nottage Hill Pinot Noir 2012 ($13)

This Pinot is an excellent value. It has Chinese spice, wild strawberry, dried mandarin peel, and an herbal note on the nose. With bright acidity, soft tannins, and notes of sweet fruit and vanilla bean on the palate, the wine is soft, and relatively simple, but varietally true, and well made.

Pair With: Raaka Vanilla Rooibos 67% Cacao Chocolate Bar ($7.95)

Though I had a table of chocolate in front of me, I was still surprised to find a chocolate that would add to a delicate Pinot, while preserving it’s soft character. This mild, sweet chocolate has notes of cherry, toasted marshmallow, and nut. As a pair, the chocolate accentuates the fruit notes in the wine, and the combined finish is lengthened, while not overpowering the Pinot.

Shiraz and Bourbon-Aged Chocolate

Wits End Shiraz McLaren Vale 2012 ($17)

On the nose the fruit is ripe and lifted, with cocoa, raisin, smoke and cream. The wine is tasty, with notes of spice and dark fruit. It maintains its structure while being round and approachable.

Pair With: Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged 82% Cacao Chocolate Bar ($7.95)

This chocolate was made by aging cocoa nibs in bourbon casks, imparting flavors of smoke and caramel. Both characters in this pairing are big and bold, and they stand up to each other. This paring is more rustic and savory, and the chocolate smoothes out the heat of the Shiraz.

Port with Coconut Chocolate

Fonseca Bin No. 27 Reserve Ruby Port ($20/375 ML bottle)

This Port is rich and deep on the nose, with notes of cassis, dark cherry, raisin, and fig. The palate is lush, fruity, peppery, and spicy. Very pleasing and balanced.

Pair With: Fine & Raw Cacao & Coconut Chunky Bonbon ($7.00)

A devilish blend of cocoa and coconut, this decadent creamy chocolate is impressive. With Bin No. 27, the match is even more indulgent, the sweetness of the Port enveloping the creamy, sweet coconut, with a lasting, delicious finish.

Port and Espresso Chocolate or Smoked Salt Chocolate

Fonseca 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($33)

Intriguing notes of cinnamon stick, dried fruit, hazelnut, caramel, toffee, and licorice.  The wine is concentrated, creamy, and sweet with a long, complex finish.

Pair With: Raaka Espresso-Belize 75% Cacao Chocolate Bar ($7.95)

This coffee, toffee, cinnamon chocolate bar is a fun way to play on the Tawny’s notes of development. Sweet and savory compliment each other in this intriguing combination.

Or Pair With: Fine & Raw Aldwerwood Smoked Salt Chocolate Bar (Cowgirl Chocolate Bar Set, $35)

If you’re feeling daring, try the Tawny with this smoked salt chocolate. It makes for a fascinating and complex sweet, earthy, salty BBQ-inspired experience.

Muscat with Spiced Chocolate or Earl Grey Chocolate

Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setúbal 2009 ($15)

Proving once again that Portugal is a go-to country for good quality, good value wines, this fortified Muscat is medium-sweet, with notes of nut, citrus and Earl Grey tea. The wine is viscous, with a good, flavorful finish.

Pair With: Green & Black’s 3.5 ounce Maya Gold Chocolate Bar ($3.49)

The subtle flavors of orange, cinnamon and nutmeg play off the spices in the wine. The spiciness of the chocolate is complimented by the sweetness of the wine, while the wine is complimented by the flavor intensity of the chocolate. The flavor intensity and the body of both components are balanced.

Or Pair With:

Jacques Torres Earl Grey Chocolate (From 50-pc Box Assortment $66)

With Earl Grey tea infused in a creamy center, the herbal notes in the chocolate compliment the herbal notes in the wine. In effect, it enhanced and highlighted an already-interesting component of the wine.