From fancy Valentine’s Day dinner reservations to something a little simpler like wine and roses, or pairing a round of chocolate with a classy glass of vino, Cupid claims some serious turf when it comes to wine for Valentine’s. Maybe it’s the anticipation of exchanging winter weather for the warmer sparks of spring, or the easy-going food pairing versatility, maybe it’s simply the color, but rosé wines often top the list of best Valentine’s Day wine finds.
Some say it can’t be done, but if you choose a great wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a remarkable experience. Whether you are pairing the sometimes subtle, creamy nuances of a delicate white chocolate or the rich bold tones of dark chocolate with one of your favorite wines, here are a few pairing tips to keep in mind.
Tip #1: To keep things simple.
Start with wine that is slightly sweeter than the chocolate or chocolate-themed dessert. Both wine and chocolate have their own unique intensity, they often find themselves engaged in a formidable palate power play, each vying for dominance and attention. To help the two settle into some semblance of amiable balance, initially, let the wine bow to the chocolate in the form of a slightly sweeter wine partnered up with the chunk of chocolate.
Tried and true “sweet” wine options that cover a wide range of chocolate partners include: the fortified favorites of Port, Madeira, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, and Grenache-driven Banyuls, in addition to several late harvest wine options, and some sweet sparkling wines like Italy’s delicious Brachetto d’Acqui or Moscato d’Asti with lighter selections.
Tip #2: Opt for similar style and weight.
When pairing wines with chocolate, try to match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more dry, tannin texture it will display. However, when you pair this darker chocolate up with a wine that also boasts stouter tannin structure, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more of the vinous fruit to show through.
Tip #3: Taste from light to dark chocolate or light-bodied to full-bodied wine.
Similar to formal wine tasting, if you will be experimenting with several varieties of chocolates, work from light white chocolate through milk chocolate and end on the drier notes of dark chocolate. By starting with the more understated nuances of white chocolate and ending with dark or bittersweet chocolate, you will keep your palate from starting on overdrive and missing out on the subtle sweet sensations found in more delicate chocolate choices (and wine).