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Wine and Chocolate: What Really Works?

February 9th, 2012 No comments

So, you want to get your sweetheart a special wine to accompany the heart-shaped box of chocolates you’re giving him or her this Valentine’s Day?  What wine do you select?  Unlike “standard” wine and food pairings, pairing wine with chocolate can be a bit more tricky.  However, if you pair them well, the result is truly divine!  No matter if you’re pairing your wine with white, milk, or dark chocolate, here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction…

Chocolates for Valentine's Day: Pick the Perfect Wine

Photo by John Hritz (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Try to pair lighter, less complex wines with lighter, simple-tasting chocolates.  The reverse also goes; try to pair rich, robust wines with darker, richer chocolates, including dark chocolate covered cherries.  Since dark chocolate displays more tannins, combining dark chocolate with a wine packed with tannins has sort of a “cancelation effect” on the wine’s tannins, bringing out more of the wine’s inherent fruity flavor (which is just what you want!)

Because white chocolate is more subtle than milk or dark, it pairs very well with Sherry and Moscato d’Asti.  Though some people like to pair white chocolate with red or white Zinfandel, the counterpoint of flavors can sometimes provide a dissatisfying contrast (if not “sampled” for approval beforehand.)  Our advice: play it safe and stay away from Zinfandel unless you know your mate has enjoyed such a combination before!  Milk chocolate goes well with Pinot Noir, several Rieslings, and Muscat (one of our favorites!)  Ruby–not Tawney–Port is almost always a perfect fit for milk chocolate, so we recommend serving this dessert wine when in doubt.  Dark chocolate craves to be paired with wines that also display hints of chocolate.  A good red Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for a box of dark chocolates.  Merlot and Tawney Port also pair exceptionally well with dark chocolate.

We hope these suggestions aid you on your quest to find the “perfect” wine to accompany the chocolate delights you plan to present your lover.  (Remember, there’s no harm in buying a few extra bottles of wine so you can sample some combinations yourself before February 14th, just to be sure!)  Cheers!

Wine and Ice Cream

February 7th, 2012 No comments

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® ice cream flavor

This week, we’re prepping you for a wine lover’s Valentine’s Day with some yummy ideas you can share with your sweetie!

So, your Sweetie Pie wants some ice cream to accompany a romantic bottle of wine during an intimate evening in?  Unheard of?  Think again!  There are, in fact, some decent wine and ice cream pairings you can try!

Is your ice cream chocolate, or chocolate chip?  Consider following a spoonful with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Ruby Port, or even a glass of Madeira!  In the mood for coffee or mocha ice cream?  Follow a bowl with a bottle of Sherry.  If you’re a mint chocolate chip fan, you’ll love how a jammy, Red Zinfandel augments your ice cream’s delicious mint taste.

Pair wine with a sorbet

Photo by Renee Comet

Strawberry ice cream, as you may guess, simply begs to be accompanied by Champagne (or a similar sparkling wine), but it can also go nicely with Sherry or Chianti.  If your ice cream is a little more adventurous, like a passion fruit sorbet for instance, give it a whirl with a good Chardonnay.  (Unoaked varieties usually pair better in this case).  Is raspberry sorbet more to your liking?  Try a taste with a Sparkling Rosé!  A quality French Bordeaux makes a great companion to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia®, and for you folks who favor plain, old vanilla, here are some wines just for you: Sherry, Sauternes, Ruby Port, and Muscat.  Cheers!

Great Wines for Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2011 No comments

postcardValentine’s Day is today! Still in need of a perfect gift?  This year, think about forgoing the teddy bear and heart-shaped jewelry.  Instead, get her a romantic gift you can enjoy together: wine.  Here are some great choices for romance on the 14th.

Great with chocolate-covered strawberries: This valentine’s day classic is perfection with another classic: Champagne.  Pop a bottle of bubbly, line up those gorgeous strawberries on a pretty platter, and get ready to enjoy them together.  If you don’t want to spend the cash on authentic French champagne, you don’t have to!  Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and Cava, a Spanish bubbly, are great options without the label-induced price spike.  Cheers!

Great with steak: Nothing says “I love you” like a meal prepared with your own two hands.  Never mind that it’s February, get out there and grill!  Steak is rich and indulgent, a great choice for Valentine’s Day.  Try this Steak with Rosemary Red Wine Sauce for something a little extra special.  Use your favorite rich, dry red for the sauce and to drink with the meal.  Need a suggestion?  Try this 2007 Ravenswood Zin–perfection with a juicy grilled steak.

Great with chocolate: Chocolate is a classic gift for a reason.  But this year, try something a little different: a chocolate and wine pairing made specially for the one you love.  Whether her favorite is white, milk, or decadent dark, there’s a perfect wine to bring out all the flavors she loves so much.  Our guide on chocolate pairing makes it easy.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wine Baskets Make Great Wine Gifts

December 15th, 2010 2 comments

Wine baskets are wonderful gifts that everyone loves.  As a result, they can cost hundreds of dollars at fancy food stores.  But why spend the cash when you can easily make them yourself?  They’re simple to create, and they make great, personal gifts that your friends and family will really appreciate.  You can fill your wine gift baskets with almost anything, so get creative: the possibilities are endless!

To start, you need some kind of attractive basket or box.  Visit your local craft store for wicker baskets or large tin pails.  Wooden wine cases also make great receptacles. For a unique container that’s a gift in itself, use a leather brigade bucket by Mulholland Leather.

Then pick a wine theme and get to filling!  Here are some ideas:

A chocolate-themed gift basket. Visit a chocolate store and pick out a variety: white, milk, and dark chocolates all pair well with wines.  If you know the person’s favorites, play to them.  You can even try some unusual chocolates: they may include goat cheese, herbs, or even chilies.  Next, pair some wines with the chocolates you’ve chosen.  For a dark chocolate lover, strong, rich reds like Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are perfect.  For the milk chocolate lover, try something smooth like a Pinot Noir or something sweet like a Muscat.  White chocolate pairs well with sweet wines like Muscatos or even something darker and tannic for contrast, like a Merlot.  For our full wine and chocolate pairing guide, click here.

A summer-themed gift basket: Line a basket with a checkered picnic cloth, then fill with beautiful summer fruits, like strawberries and peaches.  Add some goats-milk cheese (it’s at its peak in the summer) and some crackers or a baguette.  Finish with summer wines like Rosé or Pinot Grigio.

A gift basket for the new wine lover: If you know someone in your life who’s just starting to appreciate the pleasures of wine, help them out!  Fill a basket with a few bottles of your favorites.  Try to think outside the box and introduce the person to some types of wine he or she might not have heard of.

A wine and cheese basket: This one’s a crowd-pleaser.  Pairing wine and cheese can be intimidating, so see our easy wine & cheese pairing guide for help.  In general, stick to white wines and pick a variety of cheeses (like brie, gruyere, and cheddar).  Include a few different types of crackers, a bunch of grapes, and you’re ready to go.

A wine game gift basket: Give everything they need to have their own wine-tasting party.  Include several types of wine, or a a few bottles of the same type at different price point.  Place bags over the bottles or cover the labels, and add paper for note-taking.  Maybe they’ll even invite you over to play!

Interested in our recommendations for wine lover gift ideas?

Wine and Chocolate: The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 8th, 2010 No comments

To all you boyfriends and husbands out there: it’s that time of year again.  Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, which means that you’d better get thinking about what you’re going to give the lovely woman in your life.  Sure, there are the old standbys like a dozen roses or a nice dinner out, but the gift that will truly wow her is something a little more original and personal.  If she’s like me, she’d like nothing better than a box of good-quality chocolates and a bottle or two of wine to enjoy with them.  Choosing the chocolates and wines you think she’ll like best is fun and creative, and shows that care and thought went into your gift.  If you play your cards right, she might even let you share!

Matching wine with chocolate can be an intimidating task, especially since no two experts seem to agree on pairings.  But luckily, many of the same rules that guide us in pairing wine with food can help us decide which wines might go best with which chocolates.  Just like in food pairing, the most important consideration is balance.  You don’t want either the wine or the chocolate to overpower the palate, so pick wines and chocolates of similar intensities.

White Chocolate: The extra sweet, delicate flavors in white chocolates respond well to wines that enhance their buttery qualities, like Sherries or Muscatos.  Though experts often recommend pairing chocolates with sweet wines, I find that this matchy-matchy approach results in a cloyingly sweet tasting experience.  The combination of a sweet wine and a sweet chocolate can be overwhelming to the palate, making it difficult to pick up the more subtle flavors in both the wine and chocolate.  If you feel the same way, try a Pinot Noir or a mellower Merlot with your white chocolate–the key is to pick a wine that isn’t too tannin-heavy or acidic.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolates provide perhaps the widest range of possibilities for pairing.  If you prefer to pair the chocolate with a sweet wine, try a Muscat, a Riesling, or a sweeter sparkling wine.  Dessert wines and port wines, especially Ruby Ports, are a classic pairing for milk chocolates, as the richness and heaviness of a port blends well with the creaminess of milk chocolate.  And if the milk chocolate you’ve chosen happens to surround some succulent strawberries, don’t mess with something perfect–choose champagne!

Dark Chocolate: Some women (including me) feel if it isn’t dark chocolate, it isn’t really chocolate at all.  If your significant other doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth or loves strong, rich flavors, she might prefer chocolate of the dark and decadent variety.  Dark chocolate needs to be served with a wine that can match up to its strong flavors.  The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the stronger the wine needs to be.  Ports are a great choice on the sweeter side, but I find that dark chocolate pairs best with bold, spicy reds.  Try a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel for a truly mouthwatering flavor combination.

For a unique tasting experience, try a chocolatier that specializes in unique flavors.  Chocolates made with chili powder or filled with goat cheese ganache are unique and interesting, and their savory flavors can break up the sweet-on-sweet monotony.

If you want to give something a little different, pair your wine choices with a chocolate souffle, chocolate mousse, or chocolate cake, either chosen at a great bakery, or (for the especially intrepid) homemade.

For an especially romantic gift, consider setting up a private wine and chocolate pairing session, just for the two of you.  Pick a variety of wines and chocolates and taste all the variations.  Besides encouraging great conversation and a romantic mood, this method will let you and your sweetie discover your favorite flavor pairings.

See some of our suggestions for Valentine’s Day wine pairings.