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How to pair wine with chocolate, if you absolutely have to

You probably guessed it. I am not a biggest fan of matching sweet chocolate with red wine, even though it is a well known and appreciated combination. When it comes to wine pairing, I personally would trade sweets for a piece of great cheese anytime!

But, there are occasions like upcoming Valentine Day, when I can see the chocolate being more appropriate. So If you choose to pair it with wine, just stick with a few rules to make it smooth pairing: stick with a high quality, dark chocolate with high content of cocoa and pick a bigger red wine that is rich in fruit and tannins like Cabernet Sauvignon, Amarone, GSM, Grenache, Shiraz or so on, you got the message.

I remember one wine dinner, at Newton’s wine dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, when their chef decided to pair the Newton’s Unfiltered Merlot with chocolate desert. I wasn’t the only one who worried about that combination. Even the winery’s marketing director wasn’t sure about that. But the chef was absolutely right – the wine turned into velvet and the pairing was out of this world!

So for those reasons (and to challenge myself), I looked up some favorite reds that would go well with chocolate (and wouldn’t brake the bank at the same time).

My # 1 personal pick would be Steltzner Claret for a few reasons:

a) It is a great alternative to more pricey Cabernet Sauvignon

b) Claret is a “Bordeaux blend” and the wines aren’t harvested from just one vineyard location, therefore the price (but not the quality of the wine) is much lower than single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
c) the nice label satisfy even the most hard to please gal or guy aka it looks “pretty expensive”. Steltzner Claret has that sweet and smooth fruit quality that will pair very well with high quality chocolate. It will turn the wine into a lovely, velvet seduction.

There are more options, when it comes to wine pairing with chocolate. If you like it as sweet as possible, you can pick a incredible desert wine too. For me though, that would be a little too much sweetness at the same time, unless it is accompanied by a good, strong and bitter espresso.

But if you both love it sweet, here are few suggestions as well:

* Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon (Australia)

* Ferrari Carano Eldorado Noir (California) made from Black Muscat Both of these desert wine are a wonderful choice to pair with chocolate deserts….

* Jorge Ordoñez Victoria – truly unbelievable desert wine made from Old Vines Moscatel from Spanish slopes of Malaga (by the way, speaking of aphrodisiacs, did you know that Malaga is a birth place of a symbol of passion, Antonio Banderas?) Moscatel from Malaga is mainly used for production of raisins. So when Jorge grabbed some highest quality old wines of the region, it produced truly unforgettable aromatic desert wine. It’s promised to sweep your Valentine of her or his feet.

Another alternative could be a very unique wine liquor Elisir Gambrinus – which is in fact wine based sweet liquor, called in Italy Elixir d’Amor! The recipe for Gambrinus Elisir, a noble wine-based liqueur was first written in 1847 by Giacomo, son of Giovanni Zanotto.

The legend says that the original idea of the liqueur was created when some wooden grape barrels were forgotten in a corner of the dark wine cellars. Giacomo tried the wine and learned the interesting result of the long maturing in oakwood casks.

He then added some personal touch to the unfinished wine, mixture of whole natural products and herbs and created sweet liqueur called “Elixir d’Amor”. Over the years and generations, the recipe didn’t change. Raboso Piave wine has to age for 5 years together with the clever mixture of natural products to develop the delicate scent and intense aromatic body.

The original recipe, made from local grape called Raboso Piave (has a characteristic flavor of Marasca cherries) is today known to only 2 people (or so they say it). When I first tasted it, the first comparison that came to my mind was: chocolate covered cherries! Elisir Gambrinus is the most unique wine-based liqueur from Veneto in the world.

The last, but not least – you can’t go wrong with pink! What could be more romantic for Valentine’s Day than irresistible sparkling rose! At least, to me, that would be the winner!

But, Champagne Rose could be the most expensive sparkling wine on your local store’s shelf. Veuve Clicquot Rose is a wonderful bottle of Champagne and I would recommend it as a great choice for your Valentine. If you want a higher quality vintage rose, you would have to reach much deeper in your valet.

For example Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1995 Rose is absolutely fantastic champagne, silky and mellow – but it could cost you as much as $300.00 a bottle. But hey, she is worth it! Especially if you plan to propose to her at the same time!

Not to worry, just like with anything else in the wine world, there are also plenty of high quality Rose sparkling wines alternatives – priced much more reasonably then Champagne.

Here are just three suggestions from me, that I really enjoyed:

1) Sergio Rose made by Sergio Mionetto – one of the best Prosecco makers from Italy

2) Segura Viudas Rose from Spain (made by méthode champenoise)

3) Llopart Cava (Spanish Rose of incredible quality, I believe it was highly reviewed by W/A)

All of these wines are so incredibly well made that nobody would even guess that you have saved several hundreds of dollars! If I was you, I wouldn’t pair these with chocolate though. Alll of these sparkling rose wines are dry – so all you need is few fresh strawberries and you are ready to celebrate!


What ever it is you choose to do for Valentine day, I hope you enjoy the moment and make the time, you spent with each other, very special.
Happy Valentine to all!

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