By Greg Masinton - Wine Consultant and Club Carboy Manager
Enough of this Fifty Shades of Grey stuff. What we really need on Valentine’s Day, when love is in the air, is a few shades of luscious light to dark chocolate and the different hues of plum red and straw yellow that mark incredible wines worth sharing with your Valentine.
Thought to go together easily by most, chocolate and wine actually pose pairing problems that are really tricky - not unlike a new Valentine’s romance. Salt, sweetness, texture, bitterness, and creaminess are all elements that need to be considered when trying to match the perfect chocolate with the perfect wine, with the perfect Valentine, on the perfect night. Oh, but the effort is so worth it.
The ancient Aztecs considered chocolate a strong aphrodisiac, and red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow before and during amorous activities. Those two facts make the pairing of wine and chocolate on Valentine’s Day a blood pumping must.
With that said, here are some of the basic Valentine’s Day romance tips - for wine and chocolate pairing, of course:
Don’t punch above your weight: Yes, opposites can attract, but the two with similar body types, style and weight usually end up hooking up. The same can be said here. Lighter chocolates need lighter wines. Darker and more robust chocolates call for bolder and more aggressive selections.
Make love, not war: Wine and chocolate both can be a bit intense, so skip the friction and let the chocolate be dominant. Keep the wine on the slightly sweeter side of the chocolate to avoid conflict.
Don’t forget the foreplay: Sure, everyone wants to go for the kill, but save your energy (and pallet) by starting with a light wine and delicate chocolate first, then move on to more dark, mysterious and powerful chocolates and wines.
What goes best with what?
White Chocolate - Really just sugar, milk and cocoa butter, white chocolate calls for late harvest wines that really pack the sweetness. Moscato, Riesling or Ice wines are perfect.
Milk Chocolate - As actual cacao gets introduced into the mix, some of the sweeter sparkling wines do well as matches, as do Gewurztraminer, Madeira and other fortified wines of Portugal.
Dark Chocolate - As bitterness just barely starts to creep up in the chocolate, you can start drifting into some interesting options. How about a right bank Bordeaux (Merlot) or a Pinot Noir from Burgundy for chocolates in the 40-50% cacao range. The darker you get (in excess of 60% cacao) the bolder the wine can get. Sure, Port and Sherry still work, but so do California Zinfandel, Cabernet and Barolo. Beni di Batasiolo Barolo 2008 (Piedmont) $40
Chocolate with Nuts or Fruit - The Whitmans 40 piece sampler is a Valentine’s Day must, but careful here. Nuts add different food elements and saltiness that call for a tawny Port, French Riesling from Alsace or a Primitivo. Try the Still Waters 2011 Estate Grown Primitivo from Paso Robles ($38). Fruit in the mix can call for a Moscato like the Italian Castello del Poggio Moscato ($15) or the return of your favorite sparkling wine.
Chocolate Cake - If you’re going all in with chocolate cake, and why wouldn’t you, then make it count. Go big with this incredibly rich flourless chocolate cassis cake. Go find yourself a Syrah or Petite Sirah Port like the Cuvaison Espiritu Port Style Dessert Petite Sirah ($40) from Carneros. But tread lightly. With feelings this powerful, it’s easy to overdo it.
It’s rare to find love at first sight. You’re probably feeling bit of pressure. Tastes differ. Just remember, it’s Valentine’s Day. Relax and keep trying. Whatever you choose, just remember this one V-Day rule: If you can’t be with the wine you love, honey, love the wine you’re with.