Left Over Chocolate

Saturday was Valentine’s Day, so we should all have at least one or two boxes of left-over chocolate around the house. I’m hoping you haven’t eaten it all yet, because you need to try some of the rich, darker chocolates with some red wine. If you haven’t tried this surprising combination, you are truly missing one of the joys of both wine and chocolate.

My first experience with wine and chocolate was at Charles Court, one of the really fine restaurants at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. We had finished dinner and the waiter brought a selection of hand-made dark chocolates to the table, a tradition there. We were drinking a big Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner, and after enjoying the chocolates finished the wine (wouldn’t want to waste it). We were really amazed how well the wine and chocolate worked together.

I wouldn’t have expected that a dry, tannic red wine would go with something like chocolate. In fact I’ve had people I respect very much, very experienced wine drinkers, tell me that drinking wine after eating chocolate was a waste of the wine. Well friends, I’m here to tell you that wine and chocolate do work well together, assuming you pair the right wine with the right chocolate. My wife and I now look for chocolate on the desert menu, not just truffles, but any dessert rich with dark chocolates that we can enjoy with our remaining wine. Here are some suggestions for wines to drink with dark, milk and white chocolates.

Dark Chocolate: The most intense, richly-flavored dark chocolates contain 50% or more of cacao. These chocolates can have intense bitter, roasted and nutty flavors. Because of the intensity of their flavors, these very dark chocolates need to be paired with intensely flavored red wines like Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Shiraz and Zinfandel. While some of these wines might seem too tannic to pair with chocolate, the high cacao content of dark chocolate neutralizes the astringency and dryness of the tannins. In fact the more cacao in the chocolate, the more tannins you want.

Milk Chocolate: These chocolates have a smaller percentage of cacao. Adding milk and sugar creates a sweeter chocolate with less intense flavors and aromas. These sweeter chocolates need sweeter wine to prevent the wine from tasting tart or sour. Desert wines like Muscat and fortified wines such as Tawny Port pair well with milk chocolates.

White Chocolate: White chocolate is a misnomer. White chocolate really isn’t chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa; but we’ll pretend. Sweeter than milk chocolate, white chocolate is made with cocoa butter (extracted from cacao), sugar and milk. Because it lacks cacao and has more honey and vanilla flavors, white chocolate pairs well with Champagnes, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. The Champagne should be sweet, sec or a demi-sec. Champagnes and sparkling wines do not work well with dark or milk chocolate. Sparkling wines taste unpleasantly tart because of the combination of their high acidity and the cacao in the chocolate. So stay away from the chocolate coated strawberries that you sometime see advertized with Champagne.

Now, go rummage through those boxes of Valentine chocolate and save the good pieces to try with some wine. If you don’t have any of your Valentine chocolates left, buy some good quality chocolate without nuts or any other additives. Then, the next time you open a bottle of red wine, try the combination. Good wine, good chocolate; what’s not to like?