It does not matter if it is Valentine's Day or not, there are some combinations that just work. Like jelly is to peanut butter and tomato is to basil, chocolate is to wine. Successfully paired, chocolate and wine play sweet off of savory for an explosion of new flavor you would not experience otherwise.
Yes, chocolate tastes very chocolaty. That is the nature of the beast. But, it also has different sweet, bitter, acidic and fruity elements. You will especially notice this if you take your time and slowly savor each bite. Cacao is chocolate's main ingredient. It is a bean, similar to coffee, and it is grown in a very specific climate near the equator. Cacao alone is nothing like the smooth chocolate bars that melt in your mouth. To become chocolate it must go through an intense process that includes drying, roasting and grinding.
Chocolate is incorporated into a wide variety of cuisines, dishes and meals. It's not just for sweet desserts! Thank goodness. Chocolate is amazing. But, this also means that talking about the ideal pairing for chocolate and wine is not as simple as dessert combinations. There are some great pairings that take into account the other elements and applications of chocolate.
With a Chocolate Bar
When it comes to stand alone chocolate with a high cacao percentage, think about a dry wine pairing. It is natural to opt immediately for the sweet dessert wine, but this can often overwhelm the palate with sugar alone, drowning out the other flavors.
The Pairing: Perugina Dark Chocolate Perugina Dark Chocolate and Almonds Bar and a 2004 Wild Bunch California Red
When you are dealing with a meat that can be high in fat, such as duck, you want to render some of that fat away to allow the other flavors a chance to be noticed. Too much fat can overwhelm them. Here, the duck remains tender while the merlot-chocolate sauce is elevated with the addition of orange zest.
The Pairing: Roast Long Island Duckling with Merlot-Chocolate Sauce and a Shinn Estate Vineyards Merlot
Like chocolate and wine, cheese and wine have a well-documented love affair. Unlike the duck fat which could overwhelm the subtle spices, this pairing takes advantage of the naturally high fat found in cheese. This chocolate cheesecake infuses that thick base of cheese with a strong chocolate flavor, allowing "chocolaty" to take center stage. Here, the wine simply adds an extra touch of elegance and sparkle to the course, transforming a standard dessert into a wow event.
The Pairing: Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake with a sweet, sparkling rose such as Callalbrigo Te Amo Rose NV
With Sweet Nuts
Like the chocolate cheesecake, this Bourbon-pecan tart is a sweet affair. However, it is not sugar first, sugar always slap in the face. Unlike many pecan pies which are cloyingly sweet, this recipe features rich undertones of bourbon and molasses that allow the savory nuts to stay front and center.
The Pairing: Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle and a tawny Port such as a 20-year-old Quinta do Bom Retiro NV
Traditionally, mole is a thick and rich chili sauce that is given an additional depth with a hint of chocolate. When prepared correctly, it adds a faint hint of sweetness without throwing a dish headfirst into the dessert category.
The Pairing: Grilled Steak with Ancho-Chile Mole and a Montevina Syrah
No matter what wine and chocolate you are pairing remember the most important rule: The best pairing is the one you love. This is true of anything. If you love red wine with your chicken, avocados in your oatmeal and scotch with your tequila, then go for it. You might not have many people who will jump on the bandwagon, but that is okay. The key is your enjoyment.