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Chocolate and wine

(article, Anu Karwa)

p(blue). Editor's note: Anu Karwa wrote the Culinate wine column, titled Swirl, from July 2009 through December 2010.

With Valentine's Day near, thoughts and tastes naturally veer toward perfect couples.

In our case, it's the classically paired duo of chocolate and wine. Although the duo is a romantic notion referenced long before candy hearts conveyed “Text Me” messages, chocolate and wine don't easily complement each other. Often, chocolate can make a wine taste bitter or can coat one's mouth, making it difficult to appreciate the wine. 

However, a little guidance can steer you and your sweetheart in the right direction — even if you’re in the anti-Cupid, it’s-just-a-Hallmark-holiday camp. Here are some wine suggestions for various chocolate indulgences.

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Cabernet Sauvignon is a good choice for Theo's Madagascar bar, which is 65 percent cacao."]

Dark chocolate bars: The surge in fine chocolate bars is a blessing to all hardcore chocolate lovers. But chocolate bars boasting 60 percent cacao and higher are intense, requiring equally robust wines. Partially because of their lower sugar content (the higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the sugar), these bars are among the few chocolate options capable of standing up to robust dry wines. Try a square of a bold, dark chocolate with the Simi 2006 Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon. This is also a good option when enjoying chocolate within a recipe. 

Chocolate truffles: This already decadent, melt-in-your-mouth treat turns sublime when combined with a fruity, jammy Zinfandel. Reach chocolate nirvana when you nibble on a truffle with the lush 'Crauford. 

Chocolate desserts: Rich, chocolaty desserts make a clear case for matching the sweetness of the dessert with a similarly sweet wine. Don't even attempt to drink a dry table wine with desserts — the wine will seem astringent or exhibit muted flavors. Instead, try a "noble-rot" or botrytis-infected wine such as the sweet and luscious Robert Mondavi 2000 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Botrytis.  

Fruit-infused chocolate: Chocolate full of fruit flavors comes alive with a slightly sparkling, off-dry red wine from the Brachetto grape from Piedmont, Italy. The Hilberg 2006 "Variej" Brachetto d'Acqui bursts with macerated strawberry flavors fit to complement juicy bonbons and fruit ganaches. 

White chocolate: Think of white chocolate as “light” on the chocolate spectrum and follow the same guideline you would when pairing a more delicate food; that is, drink a lighter-bodied but flavorful wine to avoid overwhelming the mellow white chocolate. An off-dry Riesling, such as the very affordable Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Riesling, a semi-sweet wine with tropical fruit and dried apricot flavors, will make white chocolate sing.

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