To some, the act of pairing wine with food can seem like some kind of foreign art and zen-like rigmarole saved only for the world of haut cuisine, Iron Chefs and Master Sommeliers. Nothing can be further from the truth. There is something amazing about the synergy of a well-prepared dish that is balanced with the perfect wine that elevates the experience to another level you would have never achieved had you only enjoyed each component separately. One of the most intriguing pairing challenges, where many experts disagree, is with chocolate.
Some say chocolate will only work with sweet wines. Then you have to pay attention to the type of chocolate you are dealing with: Dark vs. Milk vs. White Chocolate. Are your eyes rolling in the back of your head yet? I know, but don’t fret just yet. For me, I have previously been reticent in a restaurant ordering dessert because I may still have some wine of a dry, well-structured red variety in my glass. Often, I have found not to enjoy a chocolate dessert while still drinking that wine. However, if the chocolate had been prepared in a way that matches more closely to the type of wine being served, nirvana may be right around the corner.
There is some great information on chocolate and wine pairings at Nibble.com including their very thorough Chocolate and Wine Matches chart. A few tips from this resource include pairing stronger red wines with significant fruit characteristics with dark chocolate because of the flavor intensity. It seems the cocoa butter in the chocolate helps decrease the astringency (dry and puckery mouthfeel) from the tannins. Me? I prefer to pair chocolate with Port, especially in the winter and during the holidays when the sweets flow like the chocolate river at Willy Wonka’s crib. What’s your favorite chocolate pairing?
Experimenting with wine and food pairings can be a lot of fun and educational too. Sure, you can rely on many tried-and-true pairings, such as foie gras with Sauternes, off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer with spicy Thai/Indian food, or Champagne with oysters. However, it takes focus, determination and some daring to continuously search for unique, off-beat pairings like Vouvray and Popeye’s chicken. Keep in mind, though, that taste and enjoyment are subjective and everyone is different so, the only way to really know what works for you is to try it for yourself. Wine and food pairings, like those with Chocolate, make great themes for wine tasting parties and are simply fun for your next family meal.
As someone who enjoys wine quite a bit on its own, I acknowledge to you humbly that this is an area I would very much like to explore further. Its a natural leap for the serious wine lover. The fact is, historically speaking, wine was initially made to accompany the everyday meal throughout the centuries in the Old World where local foods were paired with local wines, often those made right in the backyard. Wine is meant for food and I think Chocolate should be it’s own food group, don’t you?