Pairing Chocolates with Wine and Spirits

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Photo: Ethereal Confections/Facebook

If you’re like a lot of Americans, Valentine’s Day is about flowers, candy and of course, chocolate. This year, some of the experts are taking a love for truffles and chocolate dipped strawberries to the next level by pairing chocolate with wine and spirits. If you love the idea of pairing your favorite sips with your favorite sweets, we have a few tips to help you create the perfect pairings this Valentine’s Day.

“I have often heard it said that “chocolate is love. And, depending on your feelings about both love and chocolate, that statement may very well be true,” said Jessica Certo, wine director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House New York. “As this year’s onslaught of pink ruffles, candy hearts, and chocolate covered everything ushers in our favorite Day of Love, I find myself wondering if my chocolate pairing style is an ‘opposites attract’ or ‘like with like’ approach.”  

As with food, when pairing wine or spirits with chocolate, match lighter-flavored chocolate with lighter-bodied wine or spirits, and more intense-flavored chocolates with bigger, bolder beverages.  According to Certo, with so many varieties of both chocolate and wine, it’s best to start on the lighter side, then slowly working your way into the heavier stuff.

Pair Riesling with White Chocolate

White chocolate, with its subtle cream and buttery tones, is even more delicious when paired with something on the sweet side, according to Certo. “Riesling, especially the German Auslese variety, sings of dried apricots, honeycomb, and says ‘you complete me’ to white chocolate.” Certo says that S.A. Prum “Wehlener Sonnenuhr from the Mosel is a winner, but your favorite German Riesling will do, too.

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Pair Chardonnay with Fruity Chocolate

Lindt Master Chocolatiers and J. Lohr winemakers collaborated over the course of a year to create EXCELLENCE Pineapple, a new recipe exclusively developed to pair perfectly with J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay. The resulting EXCELLENCE Pineapple bar features a blend of silky dark chocolate, elegantly combined with naturally sweet pineapple and caramelized hazelnut pieces.”Most consumers believe dark chocolate should be paired with a full bodied red wine,” said Lindt Master Chocolatier Ann Czaja. “It’s evident that EXCELLENCE Pineapple and J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay have incredible synergy. The fruit, cream and oak notes of the wine harmonize beautifully with the sweet pineapple and toasted hazelnut crunch in the chocolate.”

Cabernet Sauvignon with Milk Chocolate

If you are a milk chocolate lover, the versatility of the creamy confection lends to lots of options. If you prefer to pair “like with like,” choose a plush California Merlot or a Pinot Noir with silky tannins. If you pick a wine that is too light on the palate, it won’t taste like anything after a bite of rich chocolate. Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon are both fruit forward blends bold enough to stand up to the creamiest milk chocolate.

If you aren’t a Cab connoisseur,  take the “opposites attract” path. Certo suggests a bright Rose champagne and we agree: it’s true when they say that champagne pairs well with everything.

Pair Bourbon with Dark Chocolate

While dark chocolate is the pinnacle of chocolate and wine pairing, it’s also an opportunity to indulge in your favorite dark spirits that can stand up to the bold flavors.

Bourbon is aged in oak barrels, which gives the spirit its signature hints of caramel and vanilla, flavors that pair perfectly with chocolate. At Ethereal Confections in Woodstock, IL, co-owner Mary Ervin likes to pair flavored chocolate with spirits that will bring out the most subtle flavor notes. She pairs her 80% dark with pure bourbon whiskey, which elicits notes of citrus, berries, plum and even Madagascar vanilla.

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Pair Gin with Honey Lavender Truffles

We know that chocolate pairs well with fruits, jams and caramel, but what happens when you stray away from the norm? Ervin pairs flavored chocolate with flavored spirits. Ethereal Confections, and other artisan chocolate purveyors, typically offer small batch treats that you won’t find in your average box of chocolates. Get creative and pair honey lavender chocolate truffles with a herbal spirit like CH Key Gin, which is known as the “gateway gin” with lime undertones. The citrus will complement the warm honey flavor while the herbaceous gin will match nicely with the lavender essence.

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