Valentine’s Day: Do wine and chocolate really go together?
With a bit of thought, you can find wines that will go nicely with chocolate
Wine and chocolate. Two of our favourite treats and perfect for St Valentine’s Day – or any day, for that matter. But do they actually go together? Most wine books argue not; the rich fat in chocolate coats the tongue masking all other flavours; milk chocolate tends to be very sweet and therefore clashes with any dry wine. Dark chocolate, like red wine, is tannic; each tends to bring out the tannins in the other. Many of us love the idea of drinking Champagne or sparkling wine with chocolate. The two clash horribly, making the Champagne taste thin and acidic.
But all is not lost. With a bit of thought, you can find wines that will go nicely with chocolate. British wine writer Sarah Jane Evans, in her book, Chocolate Unwrapped, says: “Separately the two are delicious but together they are uncomfortable. To make a perfect marriage a third element is needed: sweetness, either from residual sugar or a supple sense of richness from alcohol.” She recommends Port (Tawny or LBV), red Vin Doux Naturel (sweet French fortified wine including Banyuls and Maury) or a full-bodied ripe Malbec from Argentina, to partner dark chocolate.
I would include other ripe powerful wines such as Barossa Shiraz. Italians would go for Recioto, a sweet version of Amarone, or an off-dry Passimento. With milk chocolate Evans suggests a low-alcohol sweet sparkling wine such as an Italian Moscato.
Mary Dowey in her book Food & Wine Matching Made Simple goes for a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Fortified wines are higher in alcohol, so you should probably limit yourself to a single glass.
If Moscato is difficult to find, you could consider a Prosecco. However, the Australian Moscato listed here, is available in bottles and half bottles and is widely available through independent wine shops.
You do not need to restrict yourself to wine. When it works, one of my favourite matches with dark chocolate is Irish whiskey; I find lighter, more vanilla-flavoured whiskeys tend to go better with milk chocolate, whereas dark chocolate is usually better with more powerful complex whiskey. If your Valentine is a beer lover, match bitter chocolate with powerful beers such as Imperial stout, or barrel-aged beers, and milk chocolate with something lighter such as a red ale.
My own suggestion for a St Valentines meal would be to start the evening with a glass of Champagne, with some toasted almonds, pistachios or cheese straws, then a light red with the main course, finishing up with a small glass of a sweet fortified wine and some high-quality Irish artisan chocolate. That way you won’t overdo it and ruin the romance of the evening.
Innocent Bystander Moscato 2018, Yarra Valley, Australia
5.5%, €13.99 or €8.99 for a half bottle
Wonderful elderflower aromas, light sweet strawberry and candy floss fruit. Sweet but never sickly. Perfect with milk chocolate.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry, thepartingglass.ie; Kellys, Dublin 3, kellysofflicence.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3 clontarfwines.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Ely64.com; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; Winonline.ie; The Malt House, Trim; Red Nose Wines, Clonmel, rednosewine.com; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie.
Romeo & Juliet Passimento 2016 IGP Veneto Rosso 14%, €12.95 down from €17.95 for February
Morello cherries with hints of mocha and chocolate and an off-dry rounded finish. You could try it out with milk chocolate.
Stockists: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Banyuls 2012, Domaine du Mas Blanc 17.5%, €42.15
Delicious velvety sweet dark fruits – black cherries and cassis – with a touch of chocolate too. Not too sweet. Try it with good dark chocolate.
Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar, and Arnott’s, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie
Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Whiskey 40%, €60
Powerful with masses of dried fruits, roasted coffee and hazelnuts with a long smooth finish. Drink it with a few squares of quality dark chocolate.
Stockists: Very widely available