Chocolate is the dizzying, velvet, even spicy indulgence that we crave. Along with the perfect wine pairings, the stage is set for a romantic Valentine’s Day encounter. Chocolates have long been known for their health-inducing and psychoactive properties as noted in last year’s PRiME article, “Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Food and Wine Pairings.” The consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, which contributes to that inner glow, relaxation and happiness induced in susceptible chocoholics.
We are featuring some of the best chocolatiers in the world for Valentine’s Day. I’ve asked four brilliant Chocolatiers to suggest a complementary wine to match their specialty confection, as each makes a wide range. If your favorite chocolate is not mentioned, consult the Chocolate and Wine Pairings Primer at the conclusion. Sommeliers often suggest selecting a wine sweeter than your chocolate, yet some chocolates have dry, bitter and spicy notes begging for a different type of wine flavor and sweetness profile. In general, pair light wines with lighter chocolates and dark chocolate with full-bodied wines. Match delicate with delicate and bold with bold. Experiment often!
Jacque Torres, of Jacque Torres Chocolates, is one of New York City’s finest chocolatiers. His eponymous store was rated Best in the World by Fodor’s Travel. Jacques came to the US from France, and he still sources ingredients from the South of France. Jacque’s popular “Wicked Bar” is enrobed in 60% chocolate ganache, and the chocolate filling offers an ancho and chipotle chili essence. Additionally, he makes a special Wicked Hot Chocolate. You can purchase it here.
Jacques and his team suggest pairing the Wicked Bar with a full-bodied Pinot Noir like the 2012 Donum Carneros Estate (Wine Spectator 92 points, $79.99). This wine is a dark ruby Pinot with vanilla, smoke oak, black raspberry notes. It’s full-bodied complex cherry, smoke and blackberry flavors, silky depth and richness complement the Wicked Bar’s smoky undertones.
Paul Young of Paul A. Young Chocolates is a groundbreaking British chocolatier in London with Soho, Islington and Bank locations. His passion and cutting edge creativity has won him numerous awards including Best SeaSalted Caramel in the World at the International Chocolate Awards. He has appeared on Good Morning Britain where he was recently interviewed about the problem of world’s chocolate demand outstripping its supply.
Paul has written the book: Adventures with Chocolate which features ingenious flavor combinations. We are pairing his famous SeaSalted Caramel Dark Chocolate Bar with a Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne (Wine Enthusiast 91 points, $59.99). The golden Champagne exhibits brioche and praline aroma notes that pair spectacularly with the caramel.
Were you aware that there is a terroir* element to Chocolate? Premier Dallas Chocolatier Stephen Smith, proprietor of Nibs Chocolates, has pointed out how important it is to source chocolate from the best quality locations like Madagascar, Loire Valley, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Hawaii. D Magazine voted Nibs Chocolates “The Best Chocolate in Dallas.” Steve is a graduate of the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, France. Stephen also worked at some of the world’s best restaurants, including Michelin-starred Taillevent in Paris and Mugaritz, a molecular gastronomy restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain. After Europe, he went to Kansas City to work with chocolatier, Christopher Elbow, where Stephen discovered his passion and love for chocolate.
One of Steve’s specialty chocolates is a Tahitian vanilla bean and star anise dark chocolate sourced from Venezuela. It’s earthy and licorice flavors pair wonderfully with the violets, cherry, tobacco and licorice notes of the Michael Chiarlo Barolo, Tortoniano (Wine Spectator 93 points, $69.99). The wine is a plush, modern Barolo that should enhance a luscious, intimate evening.
* Terroir is a French wine term describing a “sense of place” of a wine grapes or chocolate, relating the growing conditions, climate, soil, slope, sunlight days, rain, etc.
Christopher Elbow of Christopher Elbow Artesian Chocolates is headquartered in Kansas City plus another shop in San Francisco. He specializes in small batch chocolate-making. Chris’ Spiced Pecan Turtle confectionary inspired a Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor and was chosen to be a creation in their Artisan collection. Only seven chef/chocolatiers were selected and featured on this YouTube profile.
Pairing with the Spiced Pecan Turtle chocolate Chris Elbow suggests: “Madeira would be the best thing. Port or other sweet fortified wines would also work.” I have selected Blandy’s 10 Year Madeira Rich Malmsey (Wine Enthusiast 91 points, $32.99). It has flavors of caramelized nuts, molasses, dried fig, chocolate and spice, citrus notes and crisp acidity.
These chocolate artisans suggest you try several wine pairings to see what is the most pleasing to you.
Valentine’s Day is all seeking love and pleasure.
White Chocolate: Orange Muscat, Moscato d’Asti, Canadian or Washington State ice wine, Vintage Port, a slightly sweet rosé, Italian Brachetto d’Acqui, a Hungarian Tokaji, or a sweet German Riesling: a Spätlese, Auslese, BA or TBA.
Milk Chocolate: Italian Vin Santo, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, a demi-sec sweeter sparkling wine, and even a dark, rich Pinot Noir or Brachetto d’Acqui. The lighter weight and mouthfeel of these wines pairs well with the creaminess of the milk chocolate
Dark Chocolate: Port, PX Sherry, red California Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Late Harvest Zinfandel, Vin Santo. Dark Chocolate’s bitter-sweet elements can hold up to some of these full-bodied and tannic wines.
Dark Chocolate with Spices (such as Smoky Chile, Anise, Cinnamon)
Red California Zinfandel, a rich Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, Madeira. The wines hold up admirably to the smoke and spiciness of these ingredients.
Chocolate with Sea Salt: Demi-Sec Champagne, an Australian Rutherglen Muscat, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, or Portuguese Madeira. Sparkling wines pair exceptionally well with salt.
Chocolate with Nuts (including peanut butter cups!): Madeira, aged Tawny Port, PX or Oloroso Sherry. These wines have a natural hazelnut character.
Chocolate with Berries: Brachetto d’Acqui, Moscato d’Asti, a Rosé Port, Pinot Noir, or ruby Port match well with fruit.
Chocolate with Caramel: Demi-Sec Champagne or a domestic sparkler, Sauternes, Madeira, Tawny Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, or a Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise French Rhône Valley dessert wine. The brioche characters of a vintage demi-sec Champagne pair surprisingly well with caramel.
Chocolate with Mint: Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, and especially a Syrah Port with its notes of eucalyptus work well with the mint.