Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you’re being barraged with reminders. Reminders to buy jewelry. Get flowers. Pair chocolate with wine.
Before you rush out and grab your favorite bottle of Cultivar and box of local artisan chocolates or truffles, stop. Not all chocolate and wine is a match made in heaven. (If you’re unsure, finish your wine before sampling your chocolate.)
Between the wine and the chocolate you are looking for a balance of sweetness, fruit, and acidity. To help you achieve this balance, there are a couple of general guidelines to keep in mind.
Truly successful matches go beyond these guidelines.
What are the exact characteristics of a successful match? It depends; it’s a matter of personal taste. Some feel chocolate never pairs with wine. I believe it’s not that straightforward, and matches can only be found through experimentation. When pairing wine with chocolates, I look first to the aromas I’m inhaling when I first raise my glass. Then I think about the nuanced flavors I’m tasting.
Interested in learning more about the art of chocolate and wine pairing? Check out the three-part series on The Nibble: Part 1 – Introduction; Part II – Pairing Chart; and Hosting a Chocolate Tasting Party.
If you want a memorable bite, try one or all of these three pairings.
Rose is the perfect Spring wine. For Valentine’s Day, our 2014 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose is a great way to start your evening, light and crisp with just the right balance of tart cranberry and hint of strawberry.
Why this pairing works: The interplay between cranberry and strawberry notes is why our 2014 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose pairs with a Peanut Butter and Strawberry chocolate. The fresh strawberry jam in the chocolate brings the strawberry notes of the wine to center stage while the creamy peanut butter softens the sweetness of the milk chocolate with its saltiness for a soft finish.
Our 2013 Cultivar Napa Valley Rose (currently only available in keg), on the other hand, which is sweeter than our 2014 vintage, paired with a Candy Cane chocolate. This unusual pairing worked because organic candy canes were crushed into Strauss cream, organic butter, and white chocolate. The peppermint accented the strawberry notes while the cream coated the mouth and balanced the wine’s crisp finish.
A wine for scotch drinkers is how our 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Chardonnay has been described. This characteristic is why when chilled you can enjoy with an Old Fashioned Chocolate which is a combination of single barrel bourbon, Fee Brothers bitters, a twist of orange all blended into Solstice Madagascar chocolate.
Why this pairing works: Our 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll District Chardonnay, fermented in neutral oak barrels, delivers fruit on the nose and hints of baking spices that finishes with caramel and brown butter. These apple, pear, and melon notes in the wine balance the bitters and hint of orange in the chocolate for a richer experience. Where alone the wine has a delicate finish, the single barrel bourbon in the chocolate intensifies the wine’s caramel finish and adds a touch of oakiness.
At first glance, our last pairing looks as if the caramel might be sweeter than the wine. It’s not. Passion fruit is a tad bit sweet and yet also slightly sour. It is this contradiction that makes this match complementing the structure of our 2011 Cultivar Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon.
Why this pairing works: On your inhale, nutmeg and cinnamon tantalize with a hint of mocha and cedar. These aromas scream for caramel and passion fruit. The Passion Fruit caramel combines these flavors into a creamy decadent bite that’s slightly bittersweet. Because the chocolate isn’t overly sweet and the flavors are those present in the 2011 Cultivar Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon you have a match made in heaven.
Which ever way you enjoy your chocolate and your wine--together or separately, have fun this Valentine’s! Jot down notes about what you like as well as what you dislike. Then, the next time you’re standing in front of a chocolate counter pick up a few more to try.
Want to be daring while reducing the likelihood of a mismatch? Check out The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Simply find the wine you’re trying to match, for example Cabernet Sauvignon, and see what fruit flavors or dessert ingredients work with it, for example strawberries. (If there’s no fruit or dessert ingredient such as butter or cream, start with one of the aromas or one of the flavors on your palette that you experience with the wine.) Then look up strawberries (or the other fruit).
What chocolates do you enjoy with your Cultivar Wine?