February’s Ask a Chef Question has been in the back of our minds for some time now as Valentine’s Day approaches, and Door County Chefs is thrilled to welcome Paul Santoriello, Winemaker and Production Director at Door Peninsula Winery, who will be contributing his vast knowledge of wine to help answer your questions for Door County Chefs’ Ask a Chef feature:
Pairing chocolate and wine should be more than sampling a bar of chocolate with a bottle of sweet wine, and less about the clothing optional hot tub after. The arrival of Valentine’s Day is a good time to match flavors with wine and chocolate, but how can you make it easy?
The process is very similar to food and wine pairing and it’s an exceptionally fun idea with a small group dinner party. Keep in mind that matching a wine with chocolate is not straightforward where some combinations work and some do not, but there are general rules that I will suggest that should help you streamline the event.
Looking in to the marketplace, the chocolate landscape is diverse. White chocolate is devoid of tannin/color and the palate is creamy. Milk chocolate is the sweetest—the added sugar is suppressing the bitter chocolate but bringing forward the flavor and fruitiness. Dark chocolates that have the percent on the label are bitter and you can sense the tannin on the finish. Chocolate Truffles are sweet, creamy and often fruit filled—more on this later. Finally, spiced chocolates are sold with red pepper to balance sweetness or sea salt to enhance and play with chocolate flavor.
There is a classic tasting of milk chocolate with Port (sweet wine that is fortified to 18% ABV) that introduces a sweet-with-sweet wine tasting. Another great combination is chocolate dipped strawberries and off dry Champagne or a strawberry infused wine, yum. This opens the door to dry fruity wines with chocolate, for example a heavy Zinfandel or Merlot wine with dark chocolate that has a high percent cocoa. These flavors complement each other.
The wine served should be as sweet/fruity as the chocolate. The weight of the wine needs to match the weight of the chocolate that you have plated. It would be a mistake not to serve a sweeter wine with white/milk chocolate, or a sweet wine with chocolates that have spice, salt or fruit chocolate, including Door County Chocolate covered cherries (hint Sweet Cherry wine perfect match). In general, the heat (spice) or salty flavors in all foods are tamed with a sweeter wine, which is why I have become a big advocate of sweet wines with appetizer foods. Back to chocolate.
You are safe pairing white chocolate with white wines. For example, Riesling or Apple wine. Another suggestion is using a raspberry, strawberry or blackberry wine with milk chocolate, which can bring complexity to the tasting. Fruit or creamy truffles work exceptionally well with fruit based wines that are blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. I have found the higher acid level in some wines work with creamy and fatty textures of chocolate truffles.
A few cool ideas would be to create a single plate of different desert treats paired with 2-3 wines to mix-and-match and compliment the pairing. Look up online how to make curled chocolate to open up mouth feel and to release bar chocolate density. You can add a small wedge of cheesecake with shaved dark chocolate (or coco powder used sparingly). Definitely make a non-chocolate fruit compote mound, where you can use any frozen fruit (cherry, raspberry, dates) as the base, these will work with red or white wine and accent the chocolate on the plate. And to finish the plate, spread chocolate covered nuts (or unsalted roasted) as a decoration that can be a taste surprise, or will act as palate refreshment.
Door Peninsula Winery offers Valentine Wine & Chocolate Baskets to streamline this process even more, and now through February 14th get 10% off your favorite blush wines just in time for Valentine’s Day! Enter code SWEETHEART at checkout to receive 10% off. Offer valid online only and only on wines listed. Offer ends 2/14/14. Not valid with other deals or promotions.
Celebrate National Drink Wine Day with Door Peninsula Winery on February 18th, 2014. All day get Free Shipping on a case of wine. Just enter promo code FREESHIP at check out. And, every customer shopping in the winery that day gets a free glass of wine. Drink while you shop!
Santoriello recently discussed this topic in a segment on WLUK-Fox 11’s Good Day Wisconsin!