When it comes to marrying wine with chocolate, call me a killjoy. Truth is, the pair are capable of being thornier than were Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. When the chemistry works it’s sublime. When it doesn’t it’s horrid.
If my heart’s desire attempted to woo me over dark chocolate dipped strawberries and brut (dry) champagne, for instance, it would really ruin the moment. For me it’s ghastly.
The reason chocolate spars with wine is due to its tongue-coating texture, which seals the taste buds, making it a bit of a chore to pair the two. Quite often the palate picks up only sour or bitter as in the case of the strawberry/dark chocolate/dry bubble scenario, a perfect example of how matching wine to chocolate can be tricky.
However, find me strawberries deep crimson and juicy in February, best quality creamy chocolate and semi-sweet top-notch fizz (Taittinger demi-sec comes to mind). Then even I’m a sucker for a romantic cliché.
After all the champagne (or wine) and chocolate combo is as much of an arsenal for Valentine’s as Cupid and his arrow. I reckon, unlike me, the way to most lovers’ hearts is through the sweet tooth — and those hearts are not as ungrateful as mine.
I offer some guidelines for chocolate and wine pairing to suit my taste, so it pretty much guarantees to place you in golden grace.
When seeking out wine to go with chocolate make sure the wine is sweeter than the chocolate, has enough body to wade through the richness and be low or non-tannic.
White chocolate is chocolate without cocoa. Demi-sec (semi-sweet) sparkling wines flatter white chocolate’s butteryness. Sherry accentuates the chocolate’s creamy notes while
Riesling and Gewurztraminer offer a pleasant fruitiness.
Milk chocolate possesses higher sugar and lower cocoa content than dark and bittersweet chocolate. Again demi-sec, or even extra-dry champagne works (In bubble language, extra-dry means sweeter than brut.) Asti spumante (sparkling muscat) or Moscato d’Asti’s light, low-alcohol and slightly effervescent character is an excellent choice and very affordable.
Dark and bittersweet chocolates containing from 60 per cent to 100 per cent cocoa, make good candidates for big, juicy, soft red wines. Lately people’s palates have caught on to pinot noir’s cherry notes and lightish tannins with semisweet chocolate. Fruit-driven New World cabernet sauvignon proves quite useful with all manner of dark chocolate.
A precise combination of sweet and bitter is ruby port (Save the vintage stuff for Roquefort cheese) or better still, Banyuls, if you can find it, from the South of France. Both sweet-talk chocolate into something meltingly sensuous. Muscat liqueur similarly seduces with its deep raisin-and-orange-peel notes.
Many artisan chocolatiers are turning out gorgeous green tea, cardamom, saffron, and other exotically flecked confections. Best to select those dressed in milk chocolate and go with a bottle of off-dry riesling or chenin blanc.
Incidentally I am not totally grumpy. I adore champagne and dark chocolate. However I prefer they maintain distance. Offer me champagne before a romantic dinner. Delight me with a bit of pure dark chocolate at the end — over an espresso. Now that’s persuasion.
Check out The Chocolate Claim (305 Strickland St. Whitehorse 867.667.2202) for hand-crafted truffles. I’d pick up a few of the wild cranberry for a pinot noir, apricot and/or orange to go with a Muscat, raspberry for a juicy cabernet and absolutely go for the white chocolate Persian Princess with a semi-sweet sparkler or maybe an off-dry riesling.
Suggested wines (listed in the Yukon Liquor Corp. Guide)
Schmitt G.A. Niersteiner Spatlese (Germany) $15.70
Angus The Bull Cabernet Sauvignon Australia $20.55
337 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon $20.65
Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir (New Zealand) $26.45
Fizzy and frizzante:
Mumm Carte Classique Extra Dry (France) $59.20
Mionetto Il Moscatto Frizzante (Italy) $19.05
Bottega Petalo Moscato (Italy) $19.00
Martini & Rossi Asti (Italy) $16.25 (also available in 200ml splits)
Kopke Colheita (Tawny) Port 1997 $24.40 (1/2 bottle)
Warre Warrior (Ruby) Port 1/3751$14.15 (1/2 bottle)
Gonzales Byass Nutty Solera Oloroso Sherry $17.60