Valentine’s Day is a time to spread love and good cheer, but should this day only highlight romance? Consider this. Most people do not realize that 44% of all US residents 18 and older are single. That is 105 million people according to the US Census Bureau. By definition, love is simply feeling affection for another person which is not narrowly defined. Why limit this Valentine’s celebration to one kind of love or affection? Isn’t ALL love what makes the world go round? Speaking of love, you have heard the saying before, life is too short to drink bad wine. Well, the same holds true for chocolate. Let’s explore some wine and chocolate pairings for you to love this Valentine’s Day.
First Up: White Chocolate
If you are sampling more than one type of chocolate, it is important to start with the lighter or white chocolates. Consider a Sauvignon Blanc with white chocolate as your first pair. I know this sounds unusual and odd, but it will knock your socks off. I must mention that white chocolate is not technically chocolate because it does not contain any cocoa. Only the butter fat from the cocoa bean mixed with sugar, milk and other traditional ingredients are combined to make the final product. Because of the high fat content and creamy texture of this sweet treat, a wine with a slight bit of acidity will pair well together. Other options are a fruity Chardonnay or Moscato d’Asti.
Second Option: Milk Chocolate
An important rule to remember when pairing chocolate or any dessert with wine is to make sure the wine is as sweet as or sweeter than the dessert or chocolate. In the case of milk chocolate, try a Riesling, Merlot, or Pinot Noir. Make sure the red wines are not overly tannic or acidic. You want something with evident fruit character to match the sweetness of the milk chocolate. If the wine is too dry or austere, then it will make the chocolate taste bitter. Certainly not an outcome anyone would welcome.
Moving onto darker varieties: Dark Chocolate (50%-70% cocoa)
Your best bets in this case are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah or Port. Dark chocolate is robust and begs for a similar wine. Note the sugar content is much lower in dark chocolates so your wine need not be so fruity.
Not so sweet: Bittersweet Chocolate (70% – 100% cocoa)
Now we are off the charts. Bittersweet chocolate is not for delicate palates as this chocolate is intense, rich and deep in flavor. Go with a similar wine like Bordeaux, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec or Port.
Bringing up the Rear: Flavored Chocolate
Flavored chocolates have burst on the scene over the past several years. The combinations are getting more and more complicated and interesting. I have seen flavors from mojito, to PB&J and Indian spice. A good rule of thumb in this case is to focus on the flavor component in the chocolate. If it is spicy, then consider a spicier wine like Shiraz or Zinfandel. If the components are fruity or sweeter, then match the fruity characters of the chocolate with those in the wine. These pairings are meant to be fun and used as a guide to get you to try different combinations and flavor profiles to stimulate your taste buds and excite your senses. Isn’t that what Valentines Day is really about? A celebration of the senses can be enjoyed by one person or a roomful. I challenge you to explore and ignite your senses this Valentine’s Day.
Nutrition Note: I would be remiss if I did not use this opportunity to highlight the notion that all foods fit into a healthy diet. It’s clearly an overused phrase but it does have meaning. When nutrition professionals say all foods fit, what we really mean is all foods fit if you are eating the proper amounts of each food. A great example of this is provided by the National Confectioners Association in their consumer piece “Candy and a Balanced Lifestyle,” which shows that moderate consumption of candy is defined as 50-100 calories per day (for example 2 bite sized chocolates average 70 calories). An amount any nutrition professional would support. Some people’s calorie needs may allow for more than this average but it depends on factors such as activity level and/or daily food intake.