When you picture a romantic dinner date, what comes to mind… a candlelit dinner, roses, chocolate, slow music, some red wine? Red wine is often associated with Valentine’s Day, so let’s explore some good food pairings that you can celebrate with this year, whether on a first date or over a meal with that special person in your life. Drinking wine on the first date has a long list of benefits. It’s sexier than a coffee date at a corner cafe and less intimidating than having a full course meal. Wine has featured in simple quotes, songs, and even poems. To quote the Irish poet W.B Yeats, “Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye.” In a nutshell, it is said that wine is an elixir of love.
Just as there are matches for people, there are matches for wine and food, and especially at Valentine’s, for chocolate! Here are a couple of tips for pairing wine and chocolate.
Get the sweetness in balance: When pairing wine and desserts, the general rule is that the wine should be sweeter than the food, to avoid making the wine seem bitter or sour. This holds true for wine and chocolate too. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, young, ripe, dry reds can sometimes pair well with high-cacao chocolates (over 72%). Dark and bittersweet chocolates, which have just enough sugar to taste “neutral” rather than sweet, can even enhance those wines’ flavours of fruit, vanilla and chocolate.
Put some weight behind it: Luscious, mouth-coating chocolate can make wine pairings seem lighter and flabbier, so choose a fuller-bodied wine balanced by vibrant acidity, like a ripe Cabernet Sauvignon or full-bodied Italian red. Fortified red wines with their sugar, tannins and high alcohol levels have the heft to hold up to chocolate’s richness. For example, a great match is dark chocolate and Port. You can go with a more expensive single vintage Port, or go with a reasonably priced Tawny Port that has a nice fruity profile.
Some wines traditionally linked to Valentine’s Day include rosés and a number of red wines including lighter style Gamay-based wines like Beaujolais, especially one of the ten Beaujolais Cru, Saint-Amour. Saint-Amour wines are among the lightest of the Beaujolais crus, often displaying spiced berry and stone-fruit characters with a marked minerality. At LCBO check out the availability of Domaine de la Pirolette La Poulette Saint-Amour 2018, $37 LCBO#28678. Described as having a ravishing nose of ripe mulberries, picked straight from the tree. Rich and very ripe, but there’s no hint of dried fruit and the expansive, creamy palate carries the generous alcohol very well. Very long, velvety finish. (jamessuckling.com, April 23, 2021).
Try Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore $17.95LCBO # 999946: Ripasso-style made by fermenting (‘re-passing’) the wine a second time on dried Amarone grapes; a process that enhances everything from the wine’s colour and flavour to its ageability. Farina’s Ripasso, with its consistent notes of cherries, licorice, and pepper spice, is a super-popular example of the style. Or go for Masi Costasera Amarone Classico DOC $25.95 LCBO#297663: Deep purple ruby colour; rich, ripe, dark fruit aromas and flavours with hints of licorice, toast and chocolate; full-bodied and smooth with a firm, long finish.
I even like a Stout beer with dark chocolate!In a sweet but more complex and fruity Tawny Port, try Warre’s Otima 10 Years Old Port, $24.10 LCBO#566174: Bright, medium tawny colour; flavours and aromas of red fruit, dried figs and pears, nuts and herbs; sweet with medium supportive acidity, medium-bodied with a warm finish.