Trending Now: Chocolate & Wine
The holidays are a time for sensuous pleasures: glowing lights, evocative smells, rich colors and richer foods. For some, nothing is more luxurious than a glass of full-bodied wine, while for others chocolate adds just the right soupçon of pleasure.
But what, one might ask, would be the pleasure quotient be if these two indulgences are combined?
Wine and chocolate pairings are a growing trend in the United States, according to Ed Domaney, co-owner of Domaney’s Liquors and Fine Wines in Great Barrington. “It’s been done for years and years in Europe but, if you look at trends in the industry, it is growing in the United States. It’s amazing how delicious the pairings can be.”
Domaney said that fine wine shops have been advising customers about the potential of wine/chocolate pairings for some time, but that many visitors to his store have not been aware of it. “When I explain it to them and open bottle to let them taste it, they are just amazed.”
He says a Cabernet is his favorite go-to pairing with chocolate. “Wine and chocolate can make a little more exciting finish to a meal,” he said. “You probably already have the cabernet open for the meal—you just bring it to a table and break up some elegant chocolates and let them taste it rather than some heavy, sugary dessert.”
He encourages people not to be alarmed by experimenting with wine. “It’s all about being creative, having fun,” he said. “Wine is just fermented grape juice—don’t be intimidated by it.”
Up Route 7 in Great Barrington at Catherine’s Chocolates, which has been creating hand-dipped chocolates for 60 years, Matthew Sinico is exploring the world of chocolate and wine. Just last week he attended a Chocolate and Wine Extravaganza in Dalton MA.
“I don’t know why it works, but it does. Dark chocolate pairs especially well with a red wine—the bittersweet taste of dark chocolate against the fruity flavor of a red wine. Those are the two that pair the best. On occasion we get people coming in to pair chocolate and wine and I lead them toward chocolate-covered fruits. That seems to pair well with a fruity wine. And dark chocolate caramels with sea salt paired with a deep red wine is just delicious.”
Wine experts tend to agree that a full-bodied red wine—not dry—pairs best with dark chocolate. Most advise customers to match the “weight” of the wine to the “weight” of the chocolate. But, Ira Smith of Kent Wine and Spirits doesn’t fully agree.
“That’s a little overdone,” the veteran wine merchant said. “They often talk about the weight of wine but, in a lot of cases, it’s like dancing on the head of a pin. At the end of the day this is about pleasure; a want, not a need. The goal is to do something enjoyable. Some people want to diagnose the wine and use 600 words to analyze it and that’s not the way people experience things.”
He noted that wine and chocolate are historically and gastronomically important. “So why not tie the two together?” he asked. Smith has conducted a number of chocolate and wine tastings and he said it is important to start with personal preferences.
“You don’t want to dictate but, if you are talking about classic pairings, white chocolate is the most decadent. With that, I would use things like a late harvest Riesling or you could use a Pedro Ximenez sherry.
“Milk chocolate is in the mid-range and with that, I would be looking at a tawny port, a Madeira or perhaps an American pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast producers which have a red fruit flavor profile.”
For a dark chocolate which has a hint of bitterness, he suggests as a counterpoint port sherry or a red Zinfandel. “In the right hands, from the better growers, that is a cool match-up.”
“Chocolate and wine are two terrific pleasure centers,” he said. “They both have well-established historical benefits and intertwine in many cultures. Perhaps that’s why we get the perennial question of which wine to pair with which chocolate.
Here are his suggestions:
Schloss Schonborn Hattenhiemer Auslese, 2005 from the Rheingau.
Huet Vouvray Moelleux “Le Haut-Lieu” 2016, will last in the cellar for decades.
Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2009
Warres Otima 10 Year Tawny Port
Castellare Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2011
Sandeman Rainwater Madeira, a widely available, delicious, flexible drink.
Chiarli Lambrusco Amabile Grasparossa di Castelvero (especially with strawberries)
Warres Warrior Finest Reserve
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth (with Bittersweet versions). Aged vermouth.
Lustau Sherry Pedro Ximenez Solera Familiar San Emilio PX Sherry.
Bottex Bugey-Cerdon "La Cueille" (especially with raspberries), slightly bubbly red from the French pre-Alps.
Here are some area Vendors:
Thorncrest Farm and Milkhouse Chocolates
280 Town Hill Road, Goshen, CT
60 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington, MA
Chocolate Springs Cafe
55 Pittsfield Rd, Lenox, MA 01240
Domaney's Liquors and Fine Wines
66 Main St, Great Barrington, MA 01230
Little Gates & Co. Wine Merchants
34 Main St, Millerton, NY 12546
Kent Wine & Spirit
24 N. Main St, Kent, CT 06757