Ah, Valentine’s Day. Dedicated to the one you love. Red is the official color, chocolate the lingua franca, romance the zeitgeist.
Is there a place for wine in all this? Of course!
Whoa, though. Unlike most foods, which have 200 to 300 taste qualities, red wines and chocolate each have 900 or more flavor components. Wine and chocolate can be sublime, but just as easily disaster. You must successfully mix contrasts—sweet vs. bitter—and similarities—fruity and nutty flavors.
The wine should be as sweet or slightly sweeter than the chocolate. Miss on this and both tastes will be sour.
Pair lighter chocolates (lower percentage of cacao) with lighter wines, stronger chocolates with more full-bodied wines.
Pair mellow, buttery white chocolate with Sherry, Orange Muscat, or Moscato d’Asti.
Pair milk chocolates with Pinot Noir, lighter-bodied Merlots, or Riesling.
Ruby port is classic pairing with semi-sweet chocolate; Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux also work.
Dark/bittersweet chocolates require robust wines with bitter flavors. Try Zinfandel or a bold Shiraz—but know you embark upon dangerous territory: such bold and assertive tastes can pound themselves into heartbreak.
Romantic compromise: Champagne or sparkling wine. Sparkling is a great palate cleanser. Pour a sweeter sec or demi-sec bubbly, not brut. Taste the chocolate. Cleanse with bubbly. Taste chocolate. Cleanse with bubbly. Chocolate. Champagne. Chocolate. Champagne. Is this a great Valentine’s Day suggestion or what?
• Angeline Zinfandel (intense, fruity California Zin) $13; pair with Santander Dark Chocolate (70% cacao).
• Fonseca Bin 27 Port (Probably Portugal’s best value port) $20; pair with Green & Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate Expresso (67% cacao).
• Moet & Chandon White Star (best selling French Champagne in U.S.) $46; pair with El Rey Caoba Milk Chocolate (41% cacao).