Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, not to mention my birthday, so wine and chocolate are on my mind! Same day! *smile* Why not impress the object of your affection (or me!) with your chocolatier skills, or at least your pairing skills extraordinaire!
And, honestly, a significant other is not required to enjoy chocolates and wine. It can be shared with roommates, friends, fur babies (but don’t share with them!), or solo in a bubble bath. The point is to make February 14th special without going broke or investing stressful days to create.
Best Wine and Chocolate Pairings
There’s no need to take my word for it; I’ve surveyed the experts on their wine and chocolate pairing preferences. Purveyors of wine, creators of chocolate, and consumers of both—here are their recommendations.
Dan, a professional taste pourer at my local Total Wine & More, says, “A great pairing for me is a Chianti and dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. The Chianti reduces the bitterness in the dark chocolate.” Kurt, also a Total Wine server, says that a Sangiovese, in particular a Vino Nobile di Montalcino, and a salted caramel (coated in dark or milk chocolate) is what wins his heart. And their cohort, Martha, shares her favorite bottle of off-dry Reisling to pair with milk chocolate.
Lisa Smith of Big Blend Radio loves Arizona LDV Winery’s 2017 Petite Sirah with homemade dark chocolate brownies. Meanwhile, my cousin Sara says her favorite is a smooth Tempranillo with dark chocolate, preferably with orange zest or sea salt.
A travel friend, Lori Allen of Focused Escapes, says South African wine tastes best in South Africa, so you should pack some chocolates and join her tour next November. She is lots of fun to travel with, and I knew she’d recommend a full-bodied Pinotage even before I received her text! She pairs it with 70% dark chocolate or echoes the red fruit flavors of the Pinotage with chocolate-covered strawberries. Ok, I’m drooling on my keyboard. Her other recommendation is to serve white chocolate with a honey or citrus ice wine like the Inniskillin Vidal Icewine.
My friend Betsi, of Betsi’s World, had this disclaimer: “Do NOT laugh! Josh bourbon barrel Cab, paired with Reese’s peanut butter cups, takes the prize. And a close second is a Decoy Cab paired with salted caramel brownies. Betsi has excellent taste!”
Perfect Valentine Treats for Your Heart’s Desire
More wine and chocolate lovers shared their favorites with me. For instance, author Robert Lee Snow claims Bogle Vineyard has two red blends he likes, Essential Red and Phantom, to pair with a slightly dark, 70% Ghirardelli. And don’t forget the sea salt.
My friend and fellow wine drinker John says Estancia Pinot Noir with chocolate truffles is the perfect match. I believe his wife, Sandi, must agree. They’ll soon be celebrating thirty-nine years of marriage.
My friend Mary enjoys chocolate-covered strawberries with chocolate wine. But she may find something better in this article. Check out the recipe section below! Mary also likes white wine and chocolate-covered cherries. Chardonnay is a good choice!
Meanwhile, Patti, who single-handedly got me hooked on the African winery Spice Route’s Chakalaka, looks forward to a bottle of Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon and digging into some Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark 72%. I’m thinking about that lonely bottle I brought home from Namibia last year. My birthday may require a steak and truffles!
For Kim, raspberry-drizzled dark chocolates with a glass of Machete dessert wine would be amazing. But she’d be happy with white chocolate or chocolate-dipped fruit and a goblet of Dolce dessert wine!
My friend Angela says she loves wine and chocolate but rarely does anything nice like that for herself. Maybe this will be the year. Or maybe her adult children will read this and surprise her. Hint, hint!
A Pinot lover, I wondered what chocolate pairs perfectly with Pinot Noir. A tasting was necessary to solve this mystery: and the winner was – milk chocolate, particularly my chocolate bark recipe, which also happens to enhance Merlot.
I returned from the Azores with a cherished bottle of Chico Maria, even more memorable with a German Milk Chocolate filled with Caramel Brownie Cream for a delightful after-dinner treat. Aldi’s has a terrific selection of imported chocolates.
What Is the Best Wine To Pair With Chocolate?
The best wine and chocolate pairing starts with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Red Blend, or Malbec – all tasty choices. Or, much like the answer to the question of what wine you drink with what meal, it’s pretty much whatever you like.
What chocolate pairs best with a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon? Dark! Dark also brings out the peppery taste in a Zinfandel. So, before you ask, does Zinfandel go with chocolate? That answer is yes, indeed. Some Zins are smoky and chocolaty and pair nicely with dark chocolate.
You ask, “You haven’t mentioned Malbec. Does Malbec pair with chocolate?” Try a Dark Milk Chocolate. Yes, that’s a real thing. It has a richer flavor than milk chocolate but isn’t as bitter as dark chocolate. But it can still hold up to a bold Malbec.
The higher the cacao percentage, the sweeter the wine needed to balance the bitterness. Some suggestions here are a Ruby Port or dessert wine. You always want to pair wines slightly more sweet than the chocolate you are eating with it.
Love at First Bite
Here is a quick cheat sheet to use to pair perfectly. If you aren’t sure what wine your intended loves, maybe ask them this casual question, “Say, isn’t that wine you drink a ____?” Just fill in the blank from the chart below and take it from there!
|Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon or Josh bourbon-barrel-aged Cab
|Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark 72% Reese’s peanut butter cups
|Dessert Wines: Machete or Dolce
|Raspberry-drizzled dark chocolates Chocolate-dipped fruits
|Icewine, honey or citrus
|Dark chocolate brownies
|Milk chocolate, chocolate truffles
|Dark chocolate 70% or Chocolate Strawberries
|Rich dark chocolate
|Depending on the prominent wine in the blend, a slightly dark chocolate, or milk chocolate with a sweeter blend
|Dark or Milk Chocolate covered salted caramel
|Rich, buttery chocolate
|Sparkling Blanc de Noirs
|Light chocolate, maybe milk or white
|Dark chocolate, perhaps with orange zest or sea salt
Shopping for the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift
Fortunately, shopping for chocolates and wine is a quick trip. Wine shops abound, and it is easy to find quality chocolates. All you need to make it memorable is a sweet decorative box to put the chocolates in and a fancy bag for the bottle. My favorite place to find these is the Dollar Tree while picking out a card!
Aldi’s is a quick, easy stop, too. They have great chocolates and incredible values on wine.
Those fortunate few who reside in southwestern Virginia can stop by Hamlet Vineyard in Bassett for a bottle of Petit Verdot. The winery is only open on Sunday afternoons, but wines from this Virginia vineyard are available at Pickle & Ash in Patrick County and in Martinsville at Wild Magnolia, The Ground Floor, and other spots. You can order bottles of Hamlet wines and have them delivered to your door. Cocoa Trails in Collinsville (or online) makes a Red Red Wine Truffle that is pairing perfection since the dark chocolate truffle is made of blackberries, black pepper, and dark chocolate petit verdot ganache, straight from Hamlet’s bottle!
A Perfect Wine and Chocolate Pairing Gift
The perfect chocolate may be a recipe to win the heart of your Valentine. You can make these yourself for under $20! But, even though it saves you money, which you can spend on more wine, it will mean more to your Valentine than any store-bought box of chocolates Forrest ever dreamed of. Of course, if you’re running out of time and panicking, try Googling “wine and chocolate pairings near me” and head for the closest store for advice and purchases.
And, if you have no clue what chocolate or wine to buy, pretend that you planned the evening as a “get to know you research party” and turn up with a variety box of chocolates, and several bottles of wine. Print out the chocolate and wine chart below, and spend quality time together. After all, most people will tell you honestly that time together is what they want.
Much like Lucien Laurin’s last-minute advice for jockey Ron Turcotte on Secretariat’s 31-length lead in the Belmont Stakes, “Don’t fall off!” We’re a lot like that. We’re not hard to please. We don’t need (or want) junky trinkets or expensive, slinky lingerie…just good wine and good chocolate and your company… it’s easy…so don’t screw it up. Don’t fall off!
Chocolate-Covered Prosecco Strawberries
Chocolate-covered strawberries are surprisingly easy to make. You melt chocolate, swirl the strawberries in it, put on waxed paper to chill in the refrigerator, and you’re done. This recipe is fast and easy. It falls into my category of “you can do this at home.” Serve it with another bottle of Prosecco, and you have a clear winner. In 10 minutes, you can have a dozen berries soaking. I’d go a step further and recommend you pick up an Extra Dry Prosecco since it is slightly sweet and will pair well with milk chocolate, hazelnut, and fruits. You could just dip those strawberries in a jar of Nutella!)
Bonus: these are low-carb, nut-free, and gluten-free! The strawberries need to soak overnight, then be dried off and dipped in melted chocolate (Lily makes a sugar-free chip that can work, too). Twenty minutes in the fridge and your treats are ready.
You can make your truffles, too, with only three ingredients: chocolate, butter, and cream! Buy the chocolate in the baking aisle for smooth melting. And remember, you can add your own flourishes to these velvety truffles. A dash of vanilla and a bit of instant coffee or espresso powder can’t hurt. Another idea, besides rolling them in cocoa powder, is to sprinkle a bit of flaked sea salt on top.
These would be my go-to with a nice bottle of wine, but the Espresso Martini looks incredibly tempting! And Absolute shared this four-ingredient recipe for your mixing pleasure: just espresso coffee, vodka, Kahlua, and egg whites (for the beautiful foamy top!)
This bark is exceptional in taste and ease. It has always been a hit for me, and paired with a bottle of Merlot, it might work as well as Ina’s Engagement Chicken! The bark recipe is quick and easy!
Plan Your Next Trip!
For more exciting vacations, try these locations!! Plan a trip to South Carolina’s Georgetown, or a cruise on the Discovery Princess, or jet off to Namibia to try African wines! You know, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip!