We are celebrating chocolate in our store in February and looking at ways that the celebration can include wine and beer. Chocolate & wine and chocolate & beer is not so different from cheese & wine, and cheese & beer. Beer is often a much easier pairing than chocolate and wine, and it is also usually less expensive. Chocolate generally goes well with products that have some sweetness about them, but wine that is sweet is often poorly regarded. The challenge of combining wine with chocolate is apparent when you finish your last bit of dry red wine with your first bite of dessert and the two tastes collide in your mouth- but not in a good way. Yet, done right chocolate and wine can explode with taste! See our February Chocolate Events page for more about chocolate events during the month.
Having been involved in many tasting events for over last 30 years, I recall some of my favorites and we hope to incorporate these into the focused tasting that we are doing this month in our store. Yes, champagne and chocolate can be served together as long as the champagne is not too dry and the chocolate is not too bitter. I do remember working at Bloomingdale’s in the 80’s when Bill Blass Chocolates, rest in peace, were introduced at a spiffy party on the sixth floor. The Main Course was a long table of chocolates, very American ones, and lots of champagne flowed, the event was very successful but the chocolates were not. Again, it is important to get a fruit-forward demi sect and pair it with chocolate that is also a bit sweet.
Champagne Truffles take both those flavors in and there is a nice marriage of the bubbly grape flavor and the creamy nutty chocolate flavor. We offer Prestat Champagne Truffles which do a good job in taking in both and certainly can be served with Champagne.
Sweeter and more fruit-forward wines are easier to pair with chocolate, wine with color works better as well. Lambrusco is a slightly sparkling wine and it makes a good partner for chocolate. This wine and grape namesake is from the Emilia Romagna region in Italy and has recently had a resurgence based on better wines that are not overly sweet being available. There have been many lousy ones around, not helping the reputation of this wine. In the Leonidas Chocolate assortment, the Leonidas Irresistible piece, filled with a strawberry-flavored butter cream, go particularly well with this fruity but not always too sweet wine, many chocolates easily pair with it.
Some tasting magic can happen with a tawny port and a soft caramel, they both have brown sugar qualities that harmonize easily together. This combination worked well in a tasting I did at the Chelsea Wine Vault a few years ago. Fran’s Caramels, who were one of the first to ride the salt, caramel and chocolate title wave make for a great pairing.
Now to the easier and less obvious stuff. Sweeter beers and stouts do work with chocolates, Brooklyn being at the crossroads of both. Brooklyn Brewery does do a Chocolate Stout made from 6 malts that does have a chocolate, darker burnt sugar taste that is a great way to finish a meal and is not harsh. We have stocked Brooklyn-based Nunu Chocolates for many years, and they mix beer and chocolate together in their best-selling Nunu Beer Box ($11.95), which has 6 beer-chocolate combinations including a Kolsch, a Stout and an IPA. Also, Famboise Lambic is a Belgian beer made from wheat, barley and fruit that does taste a bit like dessert and pairs well with chocolate, it is available in other flavors as well.
Whether on Valentine’s Day or any special day, creating a drink and chocolate pairings is a fun way to stimulate your taste buds and conversation about how these libations can satisfy your senses and arouse pleasure.