Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and what better way to revel in the holiday that celebrates love than with the ultimate romantic food and wine pairing: wine and chocolate?
Valentine’s Day memories can be made from a simple hand-made card, fresh flowers, the sparkle of jewels or a weekend getaway—all signature ways to commemorate this traditionally romantic occasion. But let’s take this from the wine and chocolate angle.
Wine is liquid sensuality: Its beautiful bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire. Wine can be described as both ‘brawny’ and ‘voluptuous;’ and just like love itself, it can be light and sweet, bold and unique, or refreshing and new.
Dark and delectable, velvety, rich, smooth and creamy—chocolate. The word itself conjures dizzying thoughts of delight and decadence. It's easy to lose yourself in its luxury, and paired with some lush and robust wines, the result can be euphoric—a playground for the senses, a combination impossible to resist.
Some people prefer ‘classic’ chocolates, brands or types that have been their favorites for a long time. However, in the last few years, an explosion of great new chocolatiers, many of them local, have been showcasing their passion for good chocolate in a variety of interesting expressions, incorporating ingredients such as bacon, wine grapes, cayenne pepper, lavender and even blue cheese.
Even chocolate-infused wines have entered the market, appealing to the sweeter-wine drinker. However, just for the record, I prefer chocolate and wine to be separate but paired.
CHOCOLATE AND WINE PAIRING NOTES
As a general rule, pair lighter, more elegant-flavored chocolate with lighter bodied wines. Chocolate can be sweet, bitter, acidic and fruity, so pair with a wine that has a similar profile to these components.
Try lighter chocolates first, then progress to darker chocolates, so the mouth won’t be overpowered by dark chocolate tannins. There are many flavors to consider; taste and discover what you like.
Made without chocolate liquor, white chocolate is a rich blend of cocoa butter, sugar and mild solids, with flavors reminiscent of cream, milk, fruit, honey, vanilla and caramel.
Buttery, full-bodied white wines
White dessert wines
Milk chocolate's sugar content outweighs the amount of chocolate liquor. Added milk solids produce a milder, sweeter product than dark chocolate, with fewer flavors and aromas. You might find cocoa, vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, honey, milk, cream, nuttiness and malt in its flavor profile.
Semi-sweet to sweet whites
Fruit-forward, medium-bodied reds
Semi-sweet or Bittersweet Dark Chocolate
Semi-sweet chocolate is bold and complex, with flavors of nuts, spice, flowers, earth, fruit and caramel, that typically taste less sweet than a milk chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and nutty flavors.
Sparkling wines, semi-dry to sweet
Fortified red wines
Full-bodied dry red wines
Cabernet sauvignon (fruit-forward version)
Chocolate has a vast array of flavor profiles and there are many different wines to pair well with it. Although most chocolate is sweet, the range of sweet to bitter and dark pairs well with big, dry red wines, which marry the dark flavor profiles. As with pairing any food and wine, compare and contrast.
Tasting Tip: First taste the chocolate. Pay attention to both the flavors and the texture in your mouth, and then sip the wine and see how the flavors and textures come together (or not). Experimenting is all the fun.
Wine Recommendation: Port is a classic dark-chocolate pairing. Madeira, with its citrus and caramel notes, also is exceptional with dark chocolate. Sip, savor and experiment. You will find your true delight.
Chocolate Recommendation: These local chocolates make me proud to live in St. Louis: Maple Bacon Chocolate by Oh Sheila! Chocolates, and Sea Salt Caramels by Kakao. And you can’t forget the bottle of CMS Hedges wine dipped in a pound of chocolate by The Chocolate Affair—break the chocolate and eat it with a glass of wine. (It’s made exclusively for Robust Wine Bar.)