Pairing wine with chocolate should be enjoyable and tailored to your own taste buds

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By: Frank Piaskowy

Kent Wenzel

Several years ago, Barb and I were driving north on scenic U.S. 281 from San Antonio to Dallas. The route took us through Hamilton, Texas, where we stopped for lunch at the Wenzel Lonestar Meat Company.

“Nothing says, ‘I Love You’ like a bucket full of meat!” That was the message on a larger than life sign on the side of their building. Reading it out loud to my wife and friends, I could not contain boisterous laughter.

I am more inclined to think of chocolate when it comes to an expression of affection. What’s more, I generally agree that “chocolate is the confectionery match to wine.”

One of my preferred pairings with dark chocolate is a sweet, low alcohol frizzante wine made from the Brachetto grape, grown almost exclusively in Italy’s Piedmont region. It is an aromatic red wine that can have floral and fruit notes similar to Moscato d’Asti and Lambrusco.

Because of limited production and a tantalizing profile, the wine was a phenomenon among European royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries. Even earlier in history, a sweet red wine in Ancient Rome known as vinum acquense (an early fore-bearer of Brachetto d’Acqui) was a favorite among the ruling class.

Legend has it that Julius Caesar and Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with gifts of vinum acquense in wineskins. It is believed that she thought the wine had amazing aphrodisiac virtues.

Brachetto d’Acqui has enjoyed a revival since the late 20th century, after almost being forgotten. Banfi, a modern innovative operation in northern Italy, has championed Rosa Regale which is readily available in local wine departments. Be advised, the ultimate romantic gesture might be chocolate dipped strawberries with Rosa Regale!

Additional dark chocolate pairings which I enjoy are a fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon or Lodi Zinfandel. Avalon Napa Valley and Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley are Cabs that can be easily found. Klinker Brick and 7 Deadly Zins are Zinfandels I see locally.

You may read guidelines for percent cocoa dark chocolates matched to specific varietal wines. Personal palates would dictate that you drink what you like with whatever chocolate. For fun, try Oliver soft red with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

If milk chocolate is your vice, try a late harvest Riesling, ice wine or Moscato d’Asti. I won’t muse on white chocolate since it really doesn’t contain any cocoa, but rather cocoa butter. Calling it chocolate is a misnomer in my book.

I would encourage your own experimenting. Avoid chewing and let the chocolate melt on your tongue. Then follow it with your choice of wine(s). You certainly will find a pairing you absolutely love.

Vignettes:

For tips on making your own chocolate covered strawberries, Danae Bell, owner of The Nut Shoppe in downtown Goshen, gives the following advice:

  • Make sure your strawberries are very dried and at room temperature.
  • For beginners, try using a compound chocolate. Gently warm your chocolate in the microwave, half power, in one minute bursts, stirring after each minute. You want the chocolate to be just warm to the touch.
  • Gently grab the strawberry by the hull, and dip the strawberry 2/3 of the way. Set the strawberry onto some wax paper to let dry. Repeat for the rest of your strawberries.
  • Melt some white chocolate and drizzle over the strawberries, if desired. Enjoy!
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