Valentines Day, Chocoloates, and Rich Wines

02/04/2009 22:34


  Sweet, Rich Wines Make the Chocolate Love Connection


By Marian Jansen op de Haar


With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us have love – and chocolate – on the brain. The rich sensuality of chocolate alone makes for an ideal way to end a romantic meal – no matter what the occasion. But be warned: pairing most wines with chocolate is about as successful as finding true love on a blind date. Odds are, it won’t work out.

Chocolate is powerful, rich and velvety and because of its sugar content it tends to ruin even the most sophisticated flavors in wines. To make it a truly memorable Valentine’s Day, select a dessert wine to go with your favorite chocolate.

The first rule of pairing sweets to wine is one that often gets broken. The wine has to be sweeter than the dessert. Trust me, if you don’t pay attention to this, your wine will taste bitter, flat and stripped of fruit flavors (the flavors we like most in wine). 

It is not easy to abide by this principle, because most desserts are very sweet. This means the wine has to be very, very sweet. One trick is to cut the sugar in your recipe a little and have darker chocolate with a higher cocoa content and lower sugar.

Rule number two, chocolate needs a powerful and sweet dessert wine.

My never fail suggestion is to try a Port.A 10-year-old Tawny Port from a well-known Port house such as Taylor-Fladgate or Graham’s is a good choice. This Port is softened by age but still powerful with plenty of fruit and chocolaty notes to make your chocolate dessert shine. You could also go for the ultimate splurge with a great vintage Port, just make sure that it’s at least 10 years old, as these wines need age to soften their edges a little. Dow’s 1991 vintage Port would be a great choice! Ports are best served around 60-65F in not too small, stemmed glasses (8-12 oz white wine glasses are great rather than those commonly used, tiny, 4 oz glasses with which you won’t be able to swirl your Port). 

Another favorite– YALUMBA, Tawny Port Barossa Museum Release Antique Australia NV. This “sticky” as they call dessert wines in Australia, is made in the way a Tawny Port is made in Portugal, wines from different harvests are blended and the average age is 15 years. It has a beautiful caramel color with fine dried fruit, caramel and chocolate aromas and flavors with accents of nuts and exotic spices. All flavors would pair beautifully with a chocolate mousse or any recipe with milk chocolate, nuts and caramel.

The Bonny Doon Framboise is a good choice when you’re preparing the meal themselves. It is a delightfully sweet, fortified, raspberry wine bursting with raspberry flavor. Use it as an ingredient in your dessert – whether to flavor the chocolate or as a base for a sauce – and then serve a glass with the final creation. It will bring all the spectacular flavors together.


Happy Valentine’s Day!


Marian Jansen op de Haar is the Director of Wine for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.  


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