There may be no better time to indulge in wine and chocolate than on Valentine’s Day. It’s sweet, it’s sexy, and it can definitely score you some brownie points for thoughtfulness. However, creating a chocolate and wine pairing that is actually delicious is not as simple as picking a random bottle of wine from the wine rack and playing chocolate roulette with the sampler box your sweetie brought home.
A Complex Companionship
“Wine and chocolate certainly have a complex relationship. There are pairings that work beautifully and others that completely clash,” says Melissa Rockwell, direct to consumer sales manager at Southold, New York-based Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery.
Sparkling Pointe is known for its chocolate and wine pairings, a daily staple on the menu at the winery’s tasting house. In fact, the tastings have become so popular with the clientele, says Rockwell, many purchase exotic-flavored chocolate bars and wine to take home to entertain friends and family.
But when it comes to creating your own wine and chocolate pairings from scratch, Rockwell says there are a few things to take into account to ensure you’re hitting the perfect note. The most important of these, she says, is to pay attention to the sweetness and tannin profile in both the wine and the chocolate you are pairing together.
“I generally tend to abide by the thought process: Your wine should be sweeter than your dessert. However, chocolates with ancillary flavors such as saltiness, nuts, or fruits tend to open up the world of pairing options,” she says.
She also says to be open to unique types of wine and chocolate pairings, such as bacon-infused chocolate with a Malbec or a chocolate blended with fruit paired with sparkling wine or Champagne.
“I had this chocolate from Vosges called the Amalfi bar made of white chocolate, lemon zest, and pink peppercorns with 36 percent cocoa butter that I paired with the Sparkling Pointe Blanc de Blancs. The lemon flavors in the wine and the bight acidity paired beautifully with the flavor combinations in this chocolate,” she notes.
If you’re still not sure you’re ready to develop your own wine and chocolate pairing without any help, Rockwell offers her wine picks for a few different types of chocolate. Pick one pairing or make it even more fun with a sampler of each chocolate and wine. And use these tips to pair wine with our chocolate desserts too.
“That’s easy. Port from Portugal,” says Rockwell. “Ports are intensely flavored to balance the somewhat bitter flavors in dark chocolate.” A Pinot Noir can also work wonders, and both pair well with chocolate covered caramel too.
“Most often sweet, either frizzante (slightly fizzy) or full sparkling red wine from Piedmont, Brachetto is a fruity style and the extra fat content in the milk chocolate makes it easier to pair as compared to dark chocolate,” she says.
“I think white chocolate is underrated for wine pairings. I would go with a Moscato d’Asti for this pairing. I love the orange and peach notes, plus that sweetness is sure to match,” she says. Many other sweet muscat wines are also a good bet, but read up on the different styles you can expect from the grape to be sure you don’t pick a bottle that’s too dry.
Peanut Butter Truffle
“I am imagining a pairing of Sauternes—a sweet wine from the Bordeaux region, or even a late harvest Chenin Blanc, with a bit of botrytis to add some honey characters, nuttiness, and sweetness to meld with the peanut butter and chocolate flavors,” says Rockwell. Try our Homemade Peanut Butter Cups if you really want to impress.
“Cabernet Franc Ice or Late Harvest wine. Those ripe raspberry flavors in the cab franc and sweetness of the ice wine/late harvest process should be a perfect match for a raspberry filled chocolate. Inniskillin in the Niagara region makes a stellar one,” she says.
A Box Of Russell Stover Chocolates
“I think I will go big and fancy here with a Barolo Chinato. This is an aromatized wine from the Piedmont with notes of botanicals, herbs, and spices and big Nebbiolo flavors,” Rockwell says.
Chocolate and Wine Recipes
For some more ideas that go beyond simply filling your wine glasses while you munch bon bons and bars, try these chocolate and wine recipes:
Red Wine Hot Chocolate
How to enjoy two of your favorite drinks in one glass? Make merlot hot cocoa. It’s sure to warm you up.
Wine Soaked Chocolate Covered Strawberries
It is what it sounds like (delicious): Strawberries are soaked overnight in red wine and then covered in chocolate. Serve them as-is, or use them to top off chocolate mousse or pudding. Tuxedo decoration optional.
Chocolate Ganache Tart with Cherries
This silky chocolate ganache tart is a classic, but the boozy cherry topping takes it to another level. If you’re in a wine-and-dine mood, just replace the vodka called for in the recipe with a dark, fruity red wine to amp up the flavor. Get our Chocolate Ganache Tart recipe.
Strawberries and rosé combine for pretty in pink macarons that are perfect for any romantic occasion. But based on the pairing tips above, you can play around with the shell and filling flavors as you wish. Get the Strawberry Rosé Macarons recipe.
BY EMILY CAPPIELLO