One of my favorite ways to close a meal is with a little glass of dessert wine. It's sweet, sophisticated, and doesn't fill you up. And while I like sweet sherry or port, my favorite dessert wine of all is an unusual one with a connection to something you would never expect: Gin and tonic. And yet this is utterly the best thing to pair with chocolate — it's a sublime combo. Have you ever tried Barolo Chinato?
Barolo Chinato is a wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, and it is a small, somewhat rare offshoot of traditional Barolo wines. (Read more about Piedmont and Barolo wines here). Barolo Chinato is a wine flavored with herbs, spices, and other aromatics, all added to Barolo wine. The most defining addition, however, is quinine bark, the same thing you find in tonic water! This gives the wine a gentle edge of bitterness. Combined with the rich, ripe notes of the wine, and its natural sweetness, as well as the other aromatics, this makes for a unique and delicious drinking experience.
I discovered this wine on my birthday, when I was looking for a little birthday treat. I wanted Sauternes or a good port, but the guy at the wine store recommended this instead. It was pricey, as Barolos don't come cheap, and this rare variant is even dearer. But it was a worthwhile birthday splurge, especially since the bottle lasts well — we sipped it a bit at a time for weeks.
I also discovered that the bitter edge of this wine and the round fullness of its flavor make an inspired pairing with chocolate. I don't usually drink wine with chocolate, but together they make something special here, enhancing the flavors. A tiny glass of this and a square of good chocolate? Amazing, special, unforgettable dessert.
Find it: Like I said, this wine doesn't come cheap, especially since it isn't as widely made as it used to be, but it is worth seeking out. You may also find better prices at your local wine store. Here are a few online sources:
(Images: Faith Durand)