Autumn is here and winter is lurking closely behind. As days become shorter and colder people will soon find relief through the delights of various comfort foods and drinks. Two in particular, chocolate and wine, are favourites with this time of year.
My goal, with these next series of articles, is to help you make an informed decision of how to combine these two favourites together.
The distinctive flavours of both wine and chocolate lead many to believe that they are an ill advised pairing, but think again. Seriously, if you put in a bit of effort they work together beautifully. It’s just a case of choosing the right wine to complement the right chocolate.
They are a great way to start a dinner party, or end one, or just curl up with a box set and luxuriate in the perfect combination of two great flavours combining to create a new third element.
As always, start with the food and then match the drink to it.
Plain milk chocolate
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar than darker chocolate and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor. This can be a cause for their lower price.
This, along with its milk content, yields a milder, sweeter product with fewer flavours and aromas. Prominent flavours include brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, honey, caramel, milk, cream, nutty and/or malt. The more of these you can smell in the chocolate than the ‘better’ it should be. It doesn’t mean you might like it more though, personal taste is nothing if not personal!
However do remember that wine vinified as Brut, is really made for food on a plate rather than chocolate. The sugar in the chocolate will clash with the lack of sugar of Brut, so we are still talking sweeter wines.
For a real treat, I’d suggest treating yourself to a Banyuls. It’s a dessert wine made in the Pyrenean region of southern France close to the Spanish Catalan border. It’s one of the oldest wine regions of Europe and Banyuls could be thought of as France’s cousin to Port or Madeira.
Banyuls is a sweet wine made from Grenache grapes and has an yellow through to amber colour. It is an unusual wine, it goes very well with a variety of chocolate, bringing out the wine’s thick, fruity flavours. It’s certainly not subtle, but it is less syrupy and clingy than most dessert wines, meaning you could probably sit down with a bottle of an evening quite happily. Possibly very happily.
Filled milk chocolates
Now milk chocolate can come with various fillings and with that time of year with selection boxes only just around the corner, what could you pair with filled milk chocolates?
A milk chocolate with nuts can work with something dry and crisp, like Soave, a light white Italian wine. Alternatively try a Malmsey, a very sweet Madeira wine with brown sugar, butterscotch and orange notes, or an old Oloroso sherry with intense nutty notes and a raisin character – perfect for your fruit and nut bar. Yep, that Fruit and Nut (F&N) type bar.
A lovely tip is to find a bar with Oloroso sherry and sneak your F&N bar in your pocket! Shhh! If asked say you had a sugar dip! Get the F&N to a lovely chewed up consistency and then sip the sherry in and enjoy. One of life’s great pleasures. Try it and see, let us know what you thought.
Sweeter chocolate needs sweeter wine, that is a very good thing to remember in general, or the wine may taste tart. Tokaji from Hungary, which is often found in the offers aisle of ‘discount’ supermarkets at a fair price, normally in half bottle sizes, dances beautifully with milk chocolate ganache.
Muscat, a white dessert wine with peach and apricot flavours, is also a popular partner for milk chocolate. Tawny Port, a fortified wine, is the strongest match with milk chocolate. Its nutty flavours and edges highlight milk chocolates’ nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavour.
But what if you are not a milk chocolate fan? That is fine! Join me in my next article as I explore the rich and divine flavours of certain wines with white and dark chocolate.