Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re still looking for a gift, you can never go wrong with wine or chocolate — or both.
Nothing says romance quite like chocolate and wine. One of the reasons is the texture and feeling of cocoa butter in the mouth. Scientists have found that chocolate contains phenylethylamine that is known to create a high in our brains that can be compared to the exhilarating feeling of falling in love.
Sommelier Natalie MacLean has you covered with her favourite wine and chocolate pairings for all different kinds of wine and sweets.
Wine + milk chocolate
For all the milk chocolate fans out there, finding a good pair becomes harder due to the high amount of dairy it contains. Natalie suggests Hungarian tokaji that has aromas of butter, honey, apricot and citrus or Barista Pinotage that she had Jess try on the show. Barista Pinotage matches perfectly with milk chocolate thanks to its smoky and coffee notes.
Wine + white chocolate
White chocolate lovers know it’s definitely a sweeter treat and it has a vanilla taste to it as well. The reason for this is the 20 per cent of cocoa in the chocolate, compared to a dark chocolate that is 75 per cent cocoa. Natalie paired pieces of white chocolate with Bailey’s, to match the vanilla notes with a cream liqueur.
Wine + dark chocolate
Dark chocolate pairs best with a fortified wine like banyuls and maury which originate from the south of France. These wines are made with late-picked red Grenache grapes and are aged for up to thirty months in oak. However, banyuls go better with chocolate so Natalie had Cynthia try the Menage à Trois Cab Sauvignon.
If you’re looking for other options to pair with your dark chocolate, Natalie also suggests:
- Sweet sherries – such as bual, verdhello and malmsey. Natalie’s recommendation: Alvears Sherry.
- Australian liqueur muscat and liqueur tokay made from muscat or msucadelle grapes – contain aromas of prune, fig, raisin, smoke, tar, coffee and nuts. Natalie’s recommendation: Muscats de Beaumes de Venise Xavier.
- Port – especially tawny port, because its caramel, coffee, nut, cinnamon, vanilla, fig and spice aromas fit perfectly with chocolate. Also try pairing this with pralines. Natalie’s recommendation: Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port.
- Natalie also recommends Apothic Dark, Extravaganza and Banyuals Chapoutier.
Fruit-based dessert wines, like those with raspberry or blackcurrant, are good options to keep your chocolate company. The fruit is usually soaked in alcohol before fermentation, and their flavours complement those of the chocolate. Natalie’s favourite fruit wines are Bonny Doon Vineyards and Andrew Quady from California.
If you’re looking for just a hint of sweetness, such as chocolate-dipped biscotti, she recommends Recioto della Valpolicella which has a sweet taste of raising and cooked black fruit. If you’re dipping strawberries instead, Canadian and German ice wine is recommended.
Created in Quebec, ice cider is a fermented beverage made from frozen juice of apples with higher alcohol content due to the apple’s natural sugar. On the show, we tried Domaine Pinnacle, which pairs more with the fruit, or biscotti you’re dipping, rather than the chocolate itself. You could also try Torres Wine or JT Icewine.
If you’re not a chocolate lover…
There are some people who are not the biggest chocolate fans and would rather stick with the wine. For that, Natalie recommends champagne because of the romance and luxury it brings to your date. However, a Pinot Noir or a rosé like the Rose George duBoeuf Lainey tried, are other great options. You could also try Champagne Lauren Perrier or Pinot Noir McMurray.