There are a few things that stuck in my head during my food & wine pairing classes. Old adages like “what grows together, goes together”, you might say. One was related to pairing chocolates and wine. My ever so flamboyant instructor, who probably drank more in class than we did, asked “who in here likes red wine and chocolate?” You can imagine that mostly of us rose our hands and to our reply he said “You probably like it, but it’s actually one of the worst pairings. It’s kind of like sex on the beach- it sounds like a good idea in theory- beach, sex…but then the reality kicks in and you got sand and all that ruining the mood.”
I don’t know if the sand was tantamount to tannin which usually clash with sugar in the chocolate, but he was right. Once we tried sweet wines with chocolates, there was never turning back. Like with any “rule” in food and wine, there are exceptions. You can totally pair dark chocolate (a bitter, low-sugar chocolate) with certain red wines (cabs and amarone)
So how do you pair chocolate with wine? Unless you’re having a piece of dark chocolate with low sugar, you might want to steer clear of red wines. Chocolate desserts and sweeter dark chocolates go best with wines on the sweeter side. Pretty much any sweet wine like port, sweet sherry, botrytised (noble) wine like French Sauternes (which may be better for foie gras but hey I’m not lookin’), Sicilian sweet Zibbibo, Passito, Vin Santo (Tuscan raisin wine) or some sweet bubbly like Moscato d’Asti or Lambrusco (on the sweet side!). Another adage in food and wine, is to match like with like. Sweet with sweet.
Chocolate is kind of a primadonna who doesn’t like to share the stage with bold wines, especially becauase of its richness (cacao butter, tannin and sugar). There again, are exceptions! A student in said class made a flourless dark chocolate torte (mostly melted down low sugar dark chocolate) with a Barolo wine and it worked.
OR you could get crazy and pair chocolate with a little something called Barolo Chinato…
Barolo Chinato is a fancy fortified wine made from Barolo wine produced with Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont, infusing things like rhubarb and gentian and other spices. Due to Barolo Chinato’s sweet, spicy, light syrupy herbaceousness, I quite like this with hazelnut chocolates since the sweetness matches, and the nuttiness contrasts well with sweet wine, enhanced with slightly bitter herbs.
Barolo Chinato includes China (produced kee-na) bark which is what the name derives from. China, or cinchona bark, has a slew of medicinal properties. Most fortified alcoholic drinks in Italy were formulated for curative properties.
This china, or cinchona bark aka quinine is the same stuff that goes into quinine syrup for tasty tonic waters for gin & tonics. The most commonly known medicinal property for quinine is to fight malaria, but it’s also touted for treating fevers, stimulating digestion (hence why you find it in ding! aperitifs and digestifs!), relieves pains and calms the nerves- like any good-doer booze should!
THEN another sweet wine that will blow. your. mind is something callled Antico Liquore Amarascato. Maybe my mind is easily amazed, but this will definitely do something to you. It’s practically poetry in a bottle. The wine maker wanted to make a wine especially for his wife who loved chocolate. And this liqueur wine is made with wild cherries from Sicily. And the wine is from Sicily. Pair with sliced pears topped with warm dark hazelnut chocolate (or melt dark chocolate to make a fondue) and dusted cacao powder (pictured below)- and you may have a foodgasm. My teachers should be proud, right?
Where can you find these other worldly things? Well, to be honest these combos are tasted on my food and wine pairing tour in Florence while visiting independent wine shops and enotecas. You can probably find Barolo Chinato easier in your town than a flight to Florence for my tour, and I hope you can find the ALA Amarascato (aka wild cherry wine/poetry in a bottle), Try asking your local wine mongers for: Antico Liquore Amarascato (ALA) by Duca Salaparuta and show them this label:
What are your favorite dessert and wine pairings? Leave a comment so I can go stuff my face and torture my pancreas!
In your sweet boozy trust,
Hey! Like this post? I’m on Facebook and Instagram– and of course a million other things like twitter and snapchat. Follow along for more of the things! Until next time…