Euphoria By Chocolate
by Stan Bliden
I am not a chocolate freak, though I do have a sweettooth and my preference is for sweeter chocolates like milk and white. Still I took on the task, assisted by my right hand wine guy Thom Wysham, with great optimism. We decided we would get through this tasting of chocolate and wines no matter what! Like I tell my customers: It’s a rough job but someone has to do it!
The first step was some research on the Internet, a look through my favorite reference book, Wine and Food, by Joanna Simon, and some discussion drawing on past experience. All to help us narrow the field of prospective wine choices, as there are a googolplex of wines available. The main rule we set was that the wine should taste as sweet as, if not a little sweeter than, the chocolate —if not the wine will taste thin and tart. That rule cancels out a majority of the world’s wines. You also must consider what will compliment the bittersweet tastes and heavy texture of chocolate.The sweetest wines, which we suspected would go best with the chocolate, are New World Muscat and fortified wines from Europe like Cream Sherry and Port. Next comes the late-harvest New World Riesling, Chenin Blanc etc, followed by their European counterparts. The latter usually have higher acidity which makes them seem less sweet. I think that is why a French Sauternes is perfect with foie gras.We pulled corks (and screw caps) from about 20 wines, ranging from full bodied dry reds, to sparkling, to sweet fortified and opened a box of assorted Belgian chocolates. A word of warning here: When we taste wines for the store selection,it is not unusual to taste 25 wines at a clip. In that case, it is necessary to spit. However, wine and food pairings are a whole different ball game where it is essential to drink the wine after ingesting the food. This will inevitably lead to you know what. Do not attempt this at home as it may lead to —you know what! Our tasting began with the dry reds and we tasted each wine with 4 types of chocolate: Bittersweet, Dark, Milk and White.
The clear- cut winner here was Santa Ema Merlot Reserve 2004 ($11.99 750ml). I must admit this is also a favorite of our customers but we chose it here for its chocolate flavors. It is full bodied and rich and has 13.5% alcohol. The bitter-sweetness of the chocolate combined with the blackberry/cassis flavors and richness of the wine creates a velvety texture and beautiful experience.
Our choice for this category was a fortified wine from the Madiran region in Southwestern France. It is called Maydie 2004 ($19.99 375ml) and is named after a castle (not a heavy metal band). It’s a cool port-like red, though slightly lower in alcohol (17%) —a full-bodied sweet wine with some tannin following the blackberry and licorice nose. BTW- This wine is made from the Tannat grape which contains the most potent form of polyphenols, those things that help reduce the risk of artery damage.
The two favorites here were Quady Electra Orange Muscat 2005 ($12.99 750 ml) and, to our surprise, Tomasello Red Raspberry wine from New Jersey ($9.99 500ml). Here the combination of milk chocolate and orange and raspberry tasted like a fruit flavored mousse in the mouth.
There were no surprises here as the R. L. Buller Premium Fine Muscat ($15.99 375ml), a fortified sticky from Victoria, Australia worked perfectly with the rich sweet white chocolate. This luscious wine is heavenly on its own even without that added texture of the chocolate. Emilio Lustau’s Deluxe Cream Sherry ($16.99 750ml) was also wonderful with its nose of sweet raisins, figs and high alcohol to cleanse the palate. A note on sparkling wines and chocolate: We tasted a brut champagne with all the chocolate types and found it to go fairly well. The bubbles and acidity cleanse the palate then the chocolate takes over in the end with no bitterness. I also recommend trying a lighter chocolate dessert with a Moscato D’Asti or Asti or a Brachetto D’Acqui from the Piedmont region of Italy.
Stan Bliden, the second- generation owner of Midway Liquors on Pulaski Highway in Joppa, grew up in the wine business. His passion from early on has been wine and he is “continually amazed” by how much there is to learn about the subject. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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