Hi wine lovers! How are you dealing with the cold weather? Around here I’m savoring every moment of one of my favorite times of year. There’s something about the atmosphere these days, I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s like it gives us permission to go slower, to get off the bullet train we seem to be rushing around on the rest of the year and indulge in tasty treats and a more leisurely pace.
It definitely has something to do with the longer nights, maybe the quiet of the snow and perhaps it’s true what I read somewhere, that nature is telling us to save our energy so we can bloom to our fullest in spring.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t make me sad, I don’t get bored and I don’t mind wrapping myself up in a thousand layers like an onion. In fact, I love snuggling up in a thick sweater or blanket and warming my hands on a cup of coffee. And my heart with a glass of wine, of course! And then there’s chocolate… how do wine and chocolate go together?
Pairing wine and chocolate, a flavor bomb
This is the first year when I’ve been able to greet sub-zero temperatures with a good store of bottles. Now, one of my favorite winter pleasures is to end the night alone or in company with a lovely new glass and a little chocolate, exploring the rich variety of Argentinian wine.
By the way: right now I’m loving Lamadrid Reserva Bonarda and Animal Syrah.
Apart from those serendipitous discoveries, nerd that I am, I couldn’t help but do some research into the flavor combinations involved until I’d found the perfect match. It was a little tricky at first, there’s a lot of information to take in, but pairing wine and chocolate is just so tempting!
I did a few searches on chocolate on websites in Argentina and on @winefolly, one of my favorite sources of information on Instagram (they have thousands of posts choosing the right wines for pasta, pizza, seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, Mexican cuisine and much more).
I found several texts by sommeliers, journalists, and oenologists, all which said that pairing wine and chocolate is… how shall I put this? Challenging. It’s not impossible but neither is it as simple as “good wine goes with good chocolate”, which is what I thought when I carefully set aside a bar of premium chocolate for my next Argentinian red.
Remember: not every wine will bring out the best of the chocolate and vice versa. But don’t worry, there’s no reason to be discouraged; you just need to follow the clues and, spoiler alert, you’ll get to the happy ending I had with some extraordinary combinations.
How to pair wine and chocolate
Wine and chocolate have a lot in common: they’re two of the most delicious things in the world, they have tannins and anti-oxidants and they’re always associated with indulgence, pleasure, I-deserve-it, romance, luxury and celebration.
In spite of these similarities, but also because of them, it’s not that easy to find the right combo. For example, apparently dry wines that don’t have any residual sugars can sometimes offer aromas of coconut, vanilla, ripe fruit and jams that tell your brain something sweet is coming even though that’s not how they taste on the palate.
Something else to bear in mind is that chocolate melts in your mouth and its greasy texture takes over the palate, lingering on the same buds you need to enjoy wine. So what happens is one takes residence and won’t let the other in, or they clash and neutralize each another. It’s never going to be unpleasant but often you won’t get the best of one or the other.
When you’re pairing wine and chocolate, in addition to dry wines, you also need to take into account sweeter kinds like port and fortified wines, sun-dried and late harvested versions. I haven’t really studied them yet, they’re unexplored territory in my still young but intense wine loving universe, but we’ve always seen them served with desserts because they go well with unctuous textures, dried fruit and citrussy flavors (mmm… now I’m thinking about orange chocolate).
Several of the suggestions I found on the internet and the recommendations I got from the wine store make them sound like they’re essential for after dinner conversation so I’ll share a few here.
Combinations guaranteed to work
More than anything my idea is more about challenging my senses, inventing new rules and having fun. Warning: don’t try a last-minute tasting with the first bar of chocolate you find at the store because that kind of candy is usually high in fat with weird additives; it won’t make for a good experience.
Let’s start with pure, rich, good chocolate (without fillings, flavorings or textures like salt, pepper, dried fruit, raisins or mint, that’s the next level). Here are a few basic pairings:
White chocolate… is super sweet. A fresh wine will cleanse the cocoa butter and milk. I tried a Sauvignon Blanc from the Uco Valley that I’d had open for a few days and I loved it but I also tried a Pinot Noir from Patagonia and I understood what people mean when they talk about balanced pairings.
Milk chocolate. If it’s very good quality (ideally half chocolate and half cream), Alex told me that it could go very well with a young Malbec with acidity and gentle tannins but also a late harvested Torrontés; a revelation.
70% cocoa. I’m determined to find the right match for my two loves, red wine and bitter chocolate, which is one of the most difficult combinations and the one I’ve worked hardest at over the past few weeks (it’s a tough life). So far, my favorite combination has been a spicy oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Salta with a medium body and ripe flavors.
90 to 100% pure flavors. These are really intense chocolates just for fans of extreme experiences. Those in the know say they go extremely well with fortified wines so I need try some with one of the different Porto-style Malbecs.
Tell me: are you going to take my lead and give in to the double-edged temptation of chocolate and a glass of wine?