Food & Drink

Wine Not?

We know just what you should do with your leftover Valentine’s Day chocolate—pair it with wine!

Combining wine and chocolate can be a tad intimidating to even the most experienced winos. Although chocolate and wine are a harmonious duo, they don’t always bring out the best in each other.

But the trusty wine connoisseurs at Tannin Wine Bar are here to help. We chatted with the general manager, Barry Tunnell, on how to make the perfect pairing.

Tannin’s molten chocolate espresso cake served with Turkish coffee Kahlua ice cream​.

Q. Is there a universal wine that pairs best with the majority of chocolate desserts?

A. My go to wines for pairing with chocolate are classic fortified wines, which come in a wide range of sweetness and richness. Sherries and wines from the neighboring region of Montilla-Moriles made from the Pedro Ximenez grape can be spectacular with chocolate.

It’s usually best to pair dessert with a wine that is sweeter than the food.

Q. What wine would you suggest for dark chocolate?

A. Dark chocolate can be very complex with a tension between sweet and bitter flavors. I love pairing dark chocolate with rich Madeira wines, often made from the Malmsey or Malvasia grape. Malmsey gives loads of dark dried fruit, like Pedro Ximenez, but an extra dimension of caramel and strong nutty character that is rewarding and complex at the end of a meal.

Q. Milk chocolate?

A. With milk chocolate, I like fortified wines that have a slightly lighter fruit profile, such as an Oloroso Sherry. Oloroso is typically made from Palomino grapes and can be bone dry to fairly sweet.  It gives a rich nutty, caramel profile that is a little coffee like and often smells and tastes slightly salty.  Other classic fortified wines like Port and Banyuls can be satisfying with milk chocolate due to their aromas and flavors of red berries.

Q. Chocolate mousse?

Chocolate mousse offers an opportunity to introduce much lighter wine styles to the conversation. Sparkling wines with a little sweetness can be great with mousse, and I would try a Brachetto from Piedmont, Italy. I also love Bugey-Cerdon, a naturally sparkling red from the French Alps made from Gamay and Poulsard that tastes like fresh strawberries and raspberries and spice.

There is a dry red table wine that is also excellent with chocolate.Amarone, the classic red wine of Valpolicella in the Veneto is made from grapes that are dried on straw mats before being made into wine. This gives a super concentrated and rich red wine that is lovely with chocolate in spite of being typically dry.

Q: Should you change your wine selection for chocolate dessert if you’re having dinner first?

A. I think that chocolate can be a tricky pairing. Not because of a lack of great wines to pair with chocolate but because wines that pair best with chocolate aren’t necessarily table wines that most people commonly enjoy with the rest of the meal. Robust reds like oak-aged Riojas, Cabernet Sauvignon and Australian Shiraz can offer aromas and flavors that are really complimentary to chocolate but I would recommend saving these for only the most savory chocolate presentations.