How About a Little Wine with That Chocolate?
Find the perfect combination for you and your sweetie
One of the great conundrums for wine lovers is what to serve with Valentine's Day chocolates. Conventional wisdom calls for big, fruity red wines, and they can work if the chocolates aren't too sweet; sugary chocolates will make the wines taste like vinegar. Two easy-to-find choices are Rancho Zabaco Sonoma County Heritage Zinfandel ($14) or d'Arenberg's Stump Jump Grenache-Shiraz ($10).
Sparkling wine is another good choice if you're keeping the chocolates light and low on the sugar. Nothing adds to the romance like bubbles. Given the weakness of the dollar, Champagnes are getting priced out of the market. But Francophiles can try a Crémant de Bourgogne; the best I've had recently was the Simonnet-Febvre at the Austin Wine Merchant for $15. If you want to keep your money closer to home, Gruet's Blanc de Noir ($13) is always an outstanding choice.
If you're heading toward a rich, sweet chocolate, more alcohol is better. Sweet wines like Pedro Ximénez (aka PX) Sherry or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise are fortified with Brandy before the grape's sugars are fermented out. What's left is a wine with natural sugars and intense fruitiness. These wines are hard to find; make a few phone calls before you strike out. Both are well worth the search – rich, viscous, aromatic, and some of the world's great wine bargains. My favorite brands are Osborne for the Sherry and Domaine de Durban for the Muscat, but don't get hung up on brands. I've never had a bad PX or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Expect to pay $20-30 for a bottle.
For strong, bitter chocolates, consider a liquor. Jameson Irish Whiskey ($25) or Cazadores Reposado Tequila ($25). Both lend sweetness without any sugar to interfere with the bitter chocolate.
Finally, for those of you who want to drink their chocolate, consider the new Dark Chocolate Flavored Vodka ($40) from SXUL Chocolate. It has an ideal balance between chocolate, alcohol, and sweetness. And you support a local business.
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