Sweet Like Chocolate
What is Easter without chocolate? If the Easter Bunny has left you with an overwhelming cache of chocolate, why not host a wine and chocolate party? Besides, both are good for the heart.
A pas de deux of chocolate and wine, two of the world’s favorite delicacies is not an easy dance, but when performed well, this partnering is sublime. Whether pairing wine with creamy white chocolate or tangy dark chocolate, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Sweetness: The wine needs to be at least as sweet, if not sweeter than the chocolate. This is true for any wine and dessert pairing. Otherwise the sweetness in the chocolate – or dessert – makes the wine seem tart and sour. Seek wines produced to retain their natural sweetness, such as Port, Sherry or Rutherglen Muscat.
Body types: Match light, elegant chocolates with light-bodied wines. The stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, pair rich, full-flavored bittersweet chocolate with a ripe Australian Shiraz. If your experience in assessing body types is limited to Lan Kwai Fong, then use this rule of thumb: warm climates produce full-bodied wines; cool climates produce light-bodied wines.
Acidity: Another reason to avoid cool climate wines is that they have elevated acidity levels. Though high acidity is a hallmark of the world’s finest sweet wines, when it comes to chocolate, acidity leaves the mouth feeling chalky or metallic, so avoid racy German rieslings, subtle Sauternes or delicately balanced chenin blanc from the chilly Loire Valley in France. In fact, most white wines are too tart for a chocolate match and are best avoided. An exception is the variety called muscat, which, though a white variety, is noted for its low acidity levels. Madeira is a lush fortified wine laden with rich nutty flavor, but due to its searing acidity levels is best avoided at a chocolate party.
Similar to a formal wine tasting, try to line up your chocolate varieties from light to dark. Start with delicate white chocolates and finish with dark or bittersweet chocolate. The buttery-smooth, sweet flavor of white chocolate – technically not chocolate due to its lack of cocoa content – makes it an excellent candidate for a Moscato d’Asti ($98, Watson’s Wines) from Italy’s Piemonte region or an Orange Muscat, such as Quady Essencia (Northeast Wine & Spirits). The soft sparkle in the sweet Moscato d’Asti dances with the creaminess of the white chocolate whereas the Orange Muscat draws attention to any fruit tones present. Or, try with Muscat de Beaume-de-Venise (Topsy Trading Co.), a grapey, fortified white wine made from the fragrant muscat grape.
Because milk chocolate is amongst the sweetest chocolate styles, avoid dry red wines and chassé straight for the sweet fortified wine category. Aside from the popular match of LBV or Vintage Port from Portugal, southern France makes several fortified red wines that are especially well-suited for chocolate: Maury, Banyuls, Rivesaltes and Rasteau.
Inherently bitter dark-chocolate is the only chocolate confection that will partner with full-bodied dry (non-sweet) red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot or Shiraz. Though not commonly found in Hong Kong, late harvest Zinfandel from California (Golden Gate Wines) or late harvest Shiraz from Australia are a divine match. Better still, sip the concentrated toffee-mocha flavored Pedro Ximenez (pronounced Pey-dro Hee-mane-ess) wine from Jerez, Spain (Watson’s Wines) or the sticky, raisiny, burnt- sugar flavored Rutherglen Muscat from Victoria, Australia (Boutique Wines) with your bite of dark chocolate. You’ll find yourself hopping with delight.