Have you ever had a dessert and wine pairing that left you feeling like the mark was missed?
If so, you are not alone!
One of my greatest food-and-wine pairing pet peeves comes in pairing desserts with wines. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk about chocolate and wine matches, as these can be tricky.
What do I mean by “missing the mark?” When wines are paired with foods, the goal is to elevate the flavor of the food and the wine. But in many dessert and wine pairings, the combination can leave the wine tasting bland, acidic, astringent, dry, and even bitter.
The little secret associated with chocolate and wine pairings is this:
The wine should be sweeter than the chocolate.
If you ever forget the order, just think: I need to add a little extra sweetness to this fine box of chocolates!
While you will see TONS of chocolate-and-wine pairings that pair chocolates with Cabernets, Zinfandels, and other dry wines, the most enjoyable pairings for me have always been with sweet wines. I’m not a big believer of “wrong” food-and-wine pairings, but I do know in the several occasions I have had chocolates or desserts paired with a dry wine, the pairing often leaves the wine with a bad taste in my mouth. (Literally.)
When the wine is less sweet than the chocolate or dessert, it leaves the wine tasting sour, thin, and less flavorful than if you had skipped the chocolate all together. If you know your sweetie really prefers dry wines, then, of course always lean towards their preferences. Or, suggest having the dry wine as an aperitif, as a dinner pairing, or as (my personal favorite) a palate cleanser in between dishes to extend the time during a lovely dinner. Some possible wine and food pairings for Valentine’s Day:
- Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with a chocolate-rubbed steak.
- A fine Pinot Noir with bacon wrapped shrimp.
- Chardonnay served alongside a delicious fish fillet.
- A glass of Gewürztraminer topped with a floating edible flower also makes for a special surprise.
While having an elegant meal may sound appetizing, this month I want to focus on making a smaller moment a bit more special: cracking open those Valentine’s Day chocolates! Go ahead and enjoy some chocolate and wine pairings this year. You deserve it!
White Chocolate & Caramels with Wine
White chocolate or white/milk chocolate caramels tend to be on the sweeter end of the spectrum when it comes to chocolates. That extra pop of sweetness really dictates an overly sweet wine to pair with it.
Traditionally, I will turn to Tawny Ports, the golden-brown Ports produced in the country of Portugal.
Ports – Ruby or Tawny – are always sweet. This is because the fermentation is stopped with the addition of a grape neutral spirit, leaving behind sugar from the grapes that was not fermented.
Tawny Ports, in particular, have a luscious caramel, nutty flavor coupled with underlying dried fruit flavors like dried apricots, figs, or dried plums. They are incredibly divine in the glass. My recommendation: serve slightly chilled for an extra lift with your chocolates.
If Port isn’t your thing, you can try a traditional late-harvest dessert wine like a Sauternes from France. I particularly like this pairing if the white chocolate is melted over something that is not as sweet as the white chocolate itself. White chocolate covered pretzels, white chocolate bark filled with a savory nut or even something spicy, or white chocolate covered potato chips are yummy treats to try with a sip of Sauternes.
Milk Chocolate with Wine
Like white chocolate, milk chocolate shares a sweet, milky, creamy characteristic that can also be challenging to pair with wines.
When it comes to milk chocolate, I tend to gravitate towards wines with flavors I could see in a milkshake. The milky essence of the milk chocolate has to go with a flavor that could easily blend with milk.
A White Zinfandel, for example, echoes the strawberry flavoring associated with a strawberry milkshake. The pairing with milk chocolate gives it that strawberry milkshake element. For a wine that has fruity or banana-esque flavors, a sweet Moscato may be a lovely choice. A really sweet Riesling could provide some orange flavors that supplement milk chocolate well.
As many milk chocolates have a little something extra on them or in them, you can choose the wine to match the flavor of the filling. For example a raspberry or cherry filling in a milk chocolate could go well with a White Zinfandel or Moscato wine. If the filling was more citrus flavored, grab the sweet Riesling or Moscato.
If choosing these types of wines proves difficult, try a more traditional pairing between milk chocolates and Cream Sherry. The term “Cream” is important when selecting a Sherry as many other Sherries are not sweet. To pair well with milk chocolate, reach for the Cream Sherry.
Dark Chocolate with Wine
And then there is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate tastes the least sweet out of these three options, but an extra pop of sweetness can be gained from fillings and toppings.
I like pairing dark chocolate with rich, fruity Ruby Ports. The red fruit flavors of Ruby Ports are a nice contrast to the roasted, toasted chocolate flavor that is very pronounced in dark chocolates. Ruby Ports, like Tawny Ports, are always sweet. Ruby Ports carry a deep, concentrated red fruit flavor hugged with vanilla and spice undertone flavors. Red fruit flavors can include descriptors like ripe red raspberries, strawberry jam, ripe black cherries, or a sugary cranberry sauce.
Give the Gift of Wine and Flowers this Valentine’s Day
Need some alternative plans for your Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day with many restaurants limited or closed to dine-in seating? Perhaps there is someone out there you have not been able to see in a while and you would like to lift their spirits.
Consider our “Become Your Own Valentine” virtual class on February 11th!
Give the gift of the class.
Or, take the class and use the tutorials within the class to provide gifts to someone you love.
Stephanie from The Blue Daisy Floral Designs is going to teach us all how to create a hand-tied bouquet that makes the perfect gift to a loved one for Valentine’s Day. It also makes a beautiful gift to yourself if you know your home interior could use a flower refresh.
I will help you add an extra touch of “yummy” to the gift with my sensual Valentine’s Day wine suggestions. From a wine that entices with its aroma to a wine that wins you over with its sweetness, these sensual wine selections will let the receiver feel like they are getting one big hug with every sip taken.
Spouses… why not make Valentine’s Day extra special this year? Take our class with the one you love AND provide them with a beautiful set of gifts to show them how much you care.
“Become Your Own Valentine” is just under $55 by using the coupon code GIVING at checkout. Flowers and wine are not included, but we’ll tell you how to get what you need when you register. More information and registration are found here!
When: Thursday, February 11, 2021
Time: 7 PM – 8:15 PM (EST)
What’s included with this virtual class:
- One hour of a fun, virtual class with wine expert, Denise Gardner, and floral designer, Stephanie Kirby.
- Recommendations for sensual wine selections to upgrade your Valentine’s Day!
- A tutorial led by Stephanie on how to arrange a hand-tied bouquet. She will detail flower selections, prepping the flowers, and arrangement instructions to create a bouquet for you or a loved one.
- A workbook that details all of the wines discussed and any tips on their enjoyment. Plus, step-by-step instructions for arranging your own hand-tied bouquet.
February 27th is “Open That Bottle Night”
Thanks to The Travelling Corkscrew wine blog, I recently discovered “Open That Bottle Night.” This holiday is celebrated annually to encourage us to dig into our wine storage and finally open that bottle we have been holding onto for the special occasion that we never seem to have. Now we have an excuse to finally open that bottle! “Open That Bottle Night” is on Saturday, February 27th this year, and I will definitely participate as we have a few bottles we have been reserving for an unknown occasion. I would love to know what you are opening for this event! Tag me on Instagram using the handle @dgwinemaking and let me know what you are popping open on February 27th. Or, share in our Sip & Swirl Community Page on Facebook. (Become a member by subscribing to our monthly Sip & Swirl! Sign up below!)
Hidden Wine Gems: Port-style Wines
With all of the Port discussion for this month’s newsletter, I wanted to a feature a few Port-style wines from winery brands I have tasted over the years. One of my family’s favorite is the Cabernet Franc Port from Manatawny Creek Winery. If you prefer something with a little more “oomph” on the palate, Allegro Winery’s Forté is quite delectable. Or for something a bit unique, I recommend trying the Lacrima Dolce from Penns Woods Winery. It’s a lovely late-harvest dessert wine produced from red grape varieties. Of course, don’t forget to check your local wineries to see if they feature a dessert wine and spread a little extra love to them with a purchase.