By JACQUELINE CORRIGAN
February 14th, Valentine’s Day! The one day where flowers, chocolates and wine are synonymous.
While chocolate and wine seem a no brainer, if you are not careful it can lead to some unruly battles.
When pairing wine with chocolate, the same rules apply. Think about the flavour, weight, acidity and length in the wine as compared to the chocolate you are matching it to.
Dessert wines, like table wines, do vary in their level of light bodied to heavy as well as degrees of sweetness and yes, acidity.
Think about the intensity, sweetness and texture of the chocolate. Is it dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate?
Dark chocolate, for instance, is lower in sugar and has a slightly bitter edge. If you pair this with a full bodied dry red wine, for my palate this is a clash of the tannin titans!
For me, Tawse Winery in Niagara produce a Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine that fits this bill nicely with its beautiful red fruits on the palate, rich, not cloying, refreshing acidity on the finish.
Consider too what other characteristics, flavours are at play? Orange, cherry, strawberry, ginger perhaps? Is it served warm or cold?
Lighter desserts require a lighter style wine.
Jacob’s Creek Moscato from Australia is an example of young wine, off dry, light, fruity wine with a slight petulance and lower in alcohol. A lovely custard fruit tart would be a charming dance card match.
A milk chocolate mousse would pair well with our very own Niagara winery Southbrook Farms Framboise. This medium bodied fruit wine with its balance of sweetness, acidity and beautiful raspberry flavours cut through the creamy texture of the mousse. Context is very important! By the by, this is the wine that put Southbrook on the map way back when.
Dessert wines also work extremely well with other foods.
Tokaji Aszu, from Hungary, is one of my favourite wines. The degree of sweetness is indicated on the label by a number, starting at 3 next to the word “Puttonyos.” The higher the number, 3 through 6, the sweeter the wine.
Tokaji, known as the wine of kings, is also recognized for its acidity and is a welcome match with many types of cheeses.
The richer the cheese the sweeter the Aszu should be. A Brie cheese would pair well with a 3 puttonyos while blue cheese such as Stilton, which is strong in flavour, rich and salty would best be suited with a 5 or 6 Puttonyos.
Vin Santo from Italy a.k.a. “holy wine” marries well with almond biscotti.
Commandaria from Cyprus, historically dates back to the time of the Crusades and the Knights Templar. I love history! As this is the year for going off the beaten path bring on the figs, bitter oranges and blue cheeses!
During February, 13th Street Winery in Niagara is chock full of events. Perhaps I will see you there!
My favourite song for Valentine’s is For Me Formidable by Charles Aznavour.
Here’s to the Spirit of Adventure! Cheers!
Jacqueline Corrigan is a Certified Sommelier (graduate George Brown College Sommelier Program); a Member of the International Sommelier Guild; and a graduate WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust – Britain)