By: Ofelia Saenz
So, Valentine’s Day … it’s time to play matchmaker.
Like bacon and eggs. Like mac and cheese. Like Hall and Oates. Chocolate and wine just go together, right? Uh, slow down there lover. Before you reach for that heart-shaped box of bonbons with one hand and a bottle of Burgundy with the other, there’s a few things you should know.
It’s not surprising that we think of chocolate and wine as a no-brainer couple. I mean, they have so much in common. They both release those “feel good” chemicals in your brain, they both provide heart-healthy antioxidants (totally why we consume them, right?), they both like rom-coms on weekends and long walks in the rain (wait, no, that’s me).
But the commonality of tannins that are found in both wine and chocolate are exactly what can make them tricky to pair. It’s important to avoid combinations that lead to tannin overload. Instead, opt for pairings that are matched in intensity and sweetness, while still finding a balance of complementary flavors.
Step Away From the Cabernet
All chocolates, just like all wines, have tannins, but to varying degrees. Just as red wine will be more tannic than white wine, dark chocolate will have more tannins than its milk chocolate counterpart. Melting a piece of dark chocolate on your tongue before sipping a big, bold, dry cabernet heightens the astringency on your tongue, creating too much puckery bitterness.
This isn’t to say you can never pair a dry red wine with chocolate. Just be sure to choose one that’s fruit-forward, without excessive tannins, and pair it with a chocolate that is unsweetened, bitter-sweet, or even salted.
If you’re perusing the dessert menu at a restaurant and looking for something with which to finish off your bottle from dinner, try a molten chocolate cake. The high fat and starch of the cake will help counteract the bitterness in both the chocolate and the wine.
Sweets for Your Sweet
In general, the sweeter the wine, the easier it is to pair with any type of chocolate. Think ice wines, sherry, or other dessert wines. The bright red berry flavors of a young ruby port are easily paired with anything from dark chocolate truffles to milk chocolate caramel.
When your hand-dipped white-chocolate strawberries are screaming for something fun and bubbly, try a Brachetto from Piedmont. Our somm Lori Moss says she likes to refer to this light, sparkling Italian as THE Valentine’s Day wine. It’s sweet and bubbly, with red fruit aromatics.
If you’re shy about going too sweet with your wine, stick with a darker chocolate. You want to try to match the sweetness of the two, while keeping in mind our tips about dry wines. The advantage of dark chocolate is that it will be less sweet, which means the wine it’s paired with can be less sweet as well.
Try a dessert with fruit, like a rich chocolate mousse topped with raspberry coulis. The acidity of the fruit will help curb the dessert’s sweetness, so you can go less sweet with your wine. Pair this one with Julien Sunnier’s Wild Soul, a fruit-forward light red with great freshness.
Need a specific wine recommended for your special dessert. Our expert sommeliers are always happy to help. Send me an email (ofelia@BrutDetroit.com) and let’s get you perfectly matched up.
Happy Valentine’s Day!