I walk past Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut® every morning in Kensington on my to work, and with Valentine’s Day conveniently around the corner, pairing wine and chocolate for a tasting was an opportunity too good to pass up! While they seem like a natural pairing since aromas and flavours of chocolate and cocoa are common in wine, don’t let that fool you. The trick with pairing wine and chocolate is to match sweetness levels or in some cases, completely contrast rich flavours with more bitterness. If the flavours don’t quite perfectly match or contrast you might find that they cancel one another out, leaving your palate feeling less than exhilarated. With those basic rules in mind, here are our wine and chocolate pairings – just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Tenute Tomasella, Osè Rosato Spumante, Bubbly ($26.70) + Strawberry Milk Chocolate
I always start tastings with something sparkling, or in this case, fizzy. The Osè is a blend of Refosco and Verduzzo with a brilliant rose gold hue, it’s fresh and delicate with the perfect kiss of sweetness. The wine is bursting with pomegranate and raspberry, impeccably balanced with a slight sparkle and a soft acidic backbone. The chocolate is rich with a creamy strawberry filling. The verdict? Delicious! The fruitiness of the wine matched wonderfully with the chocolate, each component accentuating notes in the other, the slight fizz of the wine also kept the palate clean, preventing a cloying sweetness from dominating.
Octavia, Merlot, Smooth ($21.95) + Raspberry Chocolate Truffle
Unlike almost every other tasting I’ve led, we jumped right into reds. By in large, white wines are too acidic and astringent to successfully pair with chocolate. You may have noticed the price of American wines have taken a big jump, but this Monterey County Merlot is a great value. Due to a warm, dry harvest these grapes had a long hang time allowing the sugar ripeness to fully develop. The wine sees time in oak and has quite a smoky aroma, this made me a little leery for the pairing but when I popped the chocolate in my mouth, I was pleasantly surprised! The richness of the truffle softened the oak notes while simultaneously, the fruitiness of the wine balanced the richness of the truffle.
Assembly, Old Vine Zinfandel, Bold ($24.70) + Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel
A classic Lodi Zinfandel – big juicy red fruits with ample spice, mocha notes and soft tannins. I have a lot of fun pairing this wine, from saucy ribs to barbeque chips and now chocolate. Zinfandel begs for a rich pairing so I chose my favourite chocolate, salted caramel. The verdict? It’s a good pairing, but not great. Although the two components paired well, the wine didn’t show off it’s bold personality. I’ll stick with my barbeque chips for this wine!
Enamore, Blend, Bold ($35.70) + Caraques Dark Chocolate
This is a fantastically unique wine. A blend of Malbec, Bonarda, Merlot and Cabernet Franc produced in the Amarone style and made in Argentina by Bodega Renacer and Allegrini (a renowned Amarone producer). This wine is a supple and sensual treat for the palate with complex layers of rich spices, chocolate, raisins and fine tannins. I opted to contrast flavours here, and the richness of the wine was met perfectly by the bitterness of the chocolate – what a beautiful pairing! This was the standout favourite for the group!
Soria, Moscato d’Asti, Rich ($18.45) + Manon White Chocolate
As far as wine and chocolate go, this is a classic pairing, yet this is the one I was most skeptical about. White chocolate isn’t technically classified as a chocolate because it’s the fat from the cocoa, not cocoa itself – this makes it much more versatile to pair with! I love this Moscato, it bursts with green apple and pear with the right amount of sweetness to classify it as a breakfast worthy wine. I was surprised and impressed with this pairing. The richness of the two components matched each other beautifully and brought out a more lactic flavour of yogurt covered raisins!
Santa Eufemia, Tawny Port, Rich ($24.70) + Trio Dark Chocolate
A wine and chocolate pairing wouldn’t be complete without a Port pairing. This is a classic marriage: a rich wine being perfectly complimented by a bitter chocolate. The chocolate is filled with a soft ganache and nuts, the sweetness subdued the alcohol and the nuttiness beautifully emphasized the nutty, caramel notes in the wine.
Wine and chocolate pairings may not be for everyone, but if you’re sweetie (or yourself) loves wine and chocolate, try one of our pairings out this Valentine’s Day!
– S. Gaudet