Advice for Pairing Wine with Chocolate

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Milk, dark, bittersweet — from desserts to cake to handcrafted bites, what are the best wines to pair with this wonderful food of love — chocolate? Read to discover some wines to pour with your favorite kind of chocolate this weekend.

Dark Chocolate
Rich, dense, sensuous dark chocolate calls for a powerful wine such as Port, a French red Vin Doux Natural (VDN) like Banyuls or Maury, or even a Late Harvest Zinfandel from California. All these wines are extremely rich and sweet, with heady aromas and flavors of macerating red and black fruit and spice notes, and they are a perfect foil for rich dark chocolates desserts.

Banyuls and Maury, the most well known red VDN wines, come from the Roussillon region in Southern France. They are fortified wines and made from the Grenache Noir grape variety. At 15% to 16% abv, they are lower in alcohol than Port wines. Within the Port category, try a simple ruby port or if feeling more extravagant, an LBV (Late Bottled Vintage).

In contrast late harvest zinfandel wines are not fortified. Rather the grapes are harvested late, when they are super-ripe and very high in sugar to result in a wine that is both sweet and powerful.

White Chocolate
Creamier and slightly buttery, my preferred wines with white chocolate are the sweet sherry wines such as Cream, Oloroso Dulce or even PX if you are feeling decadent. Alternatively try a fortified Muscat wine such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Muscat de Rivesaltes, or Muscat de Samos.

Milk Chocolate
Sitting somewhere in between, you could swing either way and most of the styles suggested above would work. Personally I tend to prefer either the lighter Port wines, or sweet sherry wines when pairing with milk chocolate.

Experiment and Explore!
While, there are some tried and tested pairings and ones that I like very much, it is always fun to experiment, especially, if your chocolate is flavored or part of a more elaborate dessert with different fruits, nuts and sauces. I’d love to hear from our readers on their favorite wines with chocolate.

Mary’s Picks
These are just some of the wines that I particularly love to sip when indulging in some little chocolate treat.

• 2008 Les Clos De Paulilles Banyuls Rimage (500 ml), $16
• St. Jean de Minervois Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois (375 ml), $13
• Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Port, $16
• Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuño Jerez, $25
• Alvear PX Solera 1927, $19
• Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, $23
• 2009 Quady Orange Muscat Essencia, $15

Until next week – Happy Valentine’s and enjoy some good chocolate!

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

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