Last-Minute Valentine's Day Pairings: Wine and Chocolate
Chocolate and wine can be a tricky pairing, given the often overpowering nature of today’s diverse and exotic chocolate offerings. Sometimes it’s best to just break open a few different bars of chocolate — from the subtle nuances of white chocolate to the familiar textures of milk chocolate and the bittersweet games of various degrees of dark chocolate. Then, pop a few corks and get to "work" mixing and matching the various wines to the assorted chocolates to find the right pairing balance of weight, texture, sweet, and tannin. Personal palate preferences will drive this delicious experiment — a bitter taste tips your tongue off to a less-than-stellar pairing; however, if the wine and the chocolate taste better together, then you’ve discovered a solid pairing synergy. Enjoy!
Wine with White Chocolate
White chocolate is predominately based on cocoa butter, some milk solids, and a sweetener (typically sugar) — not a whole lot of cocoa bean kicking here. So with that in mind, keep the wine pairings on the sweet side with plenty of balancing acidity. Consider late-harvest dessert wines, ice wines, or a light-bodied moscato d’asti. Going for the romance of bubbles? No worries, snag an off-dry, demi-sec style of sparkling wine or champagne if you are shooting for the Valentine’s Day gold. Sherry PX is another proven partner for white chocolate — melding the smooth, creamy textures of the fortified wine with the similar mouthfeel of the white chocolate. Orange muscat represents another classic pairing in the presence of white chocolate, a winner for picking up fruity nuances.
Wine with Milk Chocolate
As far as red wines go, a lighter-bodied, fruit-forward pinot noir marries extraordinarily well with the mild palate impressions of milk chocolate. Tawny ports with their sometimes chocolaty undercurrents tend to pick up the pairing profile in creamy, milk chocolate delights. Tuscany’s famous vin santo dessert wines provide an unexpected backdrop to milk chocolate, with a fuller-body, off-dry character, and nutty nuances they can play particularly well with the popular textures and flavors of milk chocolate creations. The sweet, honey-like character of Pedro Ximenez Sherry brings its own caramel and chocolate notes to the table and marries exceptionally well with mild, milk chocolate textures. It can even handle a blend of nuts and fruit in the chocolate mix with incredible versatility.
Wine with Dark Chocolate
The fortified wine favorites find their ultimate calling with the bittersweet profile variations offered up by today’s enticing medley of dark chocolate offerings. From ruby port to tawny ports, and late bottled vintage ports to the full-throttle, fortified profile of Banyuls, from Southern France, the heavier body, rich textures, and sweet palate impressions work their magic on a bite of dark chocolate. For the red wine fans, give a well-structured cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or fruit-forward zinfandel a go with the likes of dark chocolate. You’ll often find that the sturdy tannins in the wine cancel out the stout tannins in the dark chocolate, allowing a surge of fresh fruit to surface from the depths of the wine — a remarkable pairing to be sure.