Valentine’s Day is coming up and nothing says love like wine and chocolate. If you haven’t tried wine and chocolate together, you are missing a singular taste experience. Try it for dessert or by itself, in a romantic setting, of course. The right chocolate and wine pairing creates a unique taste experience that, while not reflecting the varietal characteristics of the wine, is one you won’t want to miss. Chocolate comes in three broad categories: dark, milk and white, and each requires a different style of wine.
Dark chocolate has intense bitter, roasted and nutty flavors and should be paired with an equally intense wine like the Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big, full-bodied, well-balanced wine with rich tannins that will stand up to the darkest chocolate. The high cacao content of dark chocolate neutralizes the astringency and dryness associated with tannins, so you need a big wine here.
Milk chocolate has less cacao and adding milk and sugar creates a sweeter chocolate with less aroma and flavor intensity. Milk chocolate should be paired with sweeter, full-bodied, desert-style wines like the Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Port. Its luscious blackcurrant and cherry flavors marry beautifully with milk chocolate.
White chocolate is made with cocoa butter and contains no cacao at all. The sweet honey and vanilla flavors of white chocolate pair well with sweet sparkling wines like the La Marca Prosecco which, not coincidentally, has honey flavors of its own. While tempting and often marketed together, traditional champagne does not work well with chocolate of any kind; it’s too dry for milk or white chocolate and not intense and tannic enough for the dark.
Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Blended Red – 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Merlot, 3 percent Syrah, 1 percent Zinfandel
Notes: A lovely ruby color with aromas of boysenberry, currant, vanilla and earthy hints of forest floor. It is a full-bodied, well-balanced wine with rich tannins and has big, delicious flavors of boysenberry, caramel and cranberry.
A Big Red – Cost: $$ out of $$$$$
Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Porto from Cima Corgo Portugal
Blended Red, Dessert Wine – Not Specified
Notes: Produced primarily from wines from Fonseca’s own quintas in the Cima Corgo. Blended from reserve wines selected for their superb fruit character and depth of color. Well-knit structure. Rich, velvety and full bodied. Luscious blackcurrant and cherry flavors, also dominant in the bouquet. Finishes on an intense, lingering note.
A Sweet Red – Cost: $$ out of $$$$$
La Marca Prosecco from Veneto Doc
Sparkling Wine – Glera
Notes: On the nose the wine brings fresh citrus with hints of honey and white floral notes. The flavor is fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple and touches of grapefruit, minerality, and some toast. The finish is light, refreshing and crisp.
A Sweet White – Cost: $$ out of $$$$$