2016-02-01 / Wine Notes

Wine & Chocolate: A Perfect Marriage

Robert D. Richards, CSW

If we had to associate chocolate with a month, the hands-down favorite would be February. The deep richness of chocolate, teaming up with long dark nights, mid-winter winds and the occasional blowing snow form a natural alliance and gently help to warm the heart. And, speaking of warm hearts, who can forget Valentine’s Day? Another great excuse, er, occasion, for indulging those chocolate cravings.

What might not seem such a natural match-up — though it truly is — is the pairing of chocolate with wine. Chocolate and wine work well together for several reasons. The aromas of chocolate are found in many red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. The yeast used in fermenting wine often is the same used for fermenting cocoa beans. What’s more, the same principles we use for pairing wines with other types of food hold true when pairing wine with chocolate.

A key rule of thumb for pairing food with wine is matching up texture, intensity, aroma and flavor. That’s why we wouldn’t pair a smoky Texas barbecue with a Sauvignon Blanc. But we could serve a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc or ice wine (where the grapes literally freeze on the vines to maximize the sugar content and create a syrupy sweetness) with a white chocolate. A Moscato or Spanish Pedro Ximénez Sherry also would work with the creamy, milder texture of white chocolate.

Dark chocolate demands a bold, robust wine to stand side by side with intense cocoa notes. A solid Cabernet Sauvignon is often up to the task. But if you want to stick with a bold-sweet combination, try a Tawny Port.  Here are a few possibilities.

Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro Napa Valley 2013
(#33903, $9.99)
Hailing from the Mondavi-owned vineyard in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District, this wine made from the Muscat Canelli grape shows notes of peach, along with floral hints. Its balanced acidity allows the wine to retain a certain level of crispness.

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011
(#42912, $39.99)
The aroma of dark chocolate and herbs is present on the first whiff.  This bold wine also shows notes of oak and clove, while the fruit aromas include dark berries and cherries. The tannins add to the body and mouthfeel, making it great to drink now or providing some room for aging.

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Tawny Porto
(#4865, $29.99)
With this Port, aged for 10 years in wood, you’ll get hints of chocolate even before you bite into your first morsel. You’ll also experience some raspberry and dark cherry notes — a perfect partner to dark chocolate. If you’re feeling especially flush this month, you could step up to the 20-year-old version of the Port, but it’s a special order through the Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits store.

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