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Doug Frost MS/MW http://dougfrost.com

Port Wine and Chocolate

Question time for Catavino readers: Who out there loves wine and chocolate? Although this may sound like the most obvious pairing in the world, it’s not. In my many years of both selling and writing about wine, I’ve heard numerous debates on the subject, both for and against this rather contentious chocolate and wine pairing. But among the numerous voices, one element always remains consistent, people either love it or hate it.

Chocolate can dramatically range in flavor from being the sweetest substance on earth to a thick, bitter and earthy experience. When I was young, I hated chocolate with a passion. The only chocolate I was familiar with was that sticky soft icing on birthday cakes – overly sweet and flavorless. Likewise, I never really fell for candy bars, Hershey kisses or any other manufactured chocolate flavored treat out there. It wasn’t until college when my eyes opened to authentic chocolate. I believe it was Michel Cluizel’s chocolates that tipped the scales for me, when I realized that I really did like chocolate. Slightly sweet and intensely bitter with an earthiness that revealed dark fruits, minerals and exotic spices, I loved it. Like wine, it was not immediately apparent, but over time, it rewarded those with patience. I remember having an epiphany when I realized that pure chocolate could be so magical. And as a result, I started to explore cocoa as a spice, in moles, and dry rubs on beef. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Fast forward to my life with wine. When I started to explore wine, I really never thought to put chocolate and wine together. Chocolate, having tannins and often bitter, seemed an odd bed fellow for a dry Cabernet. Because my learning had taught me to complement flavors, tannin on tannin seemed really odd to me. It wasn’t until I found St.Croix Vineyards Raspberry dessert wine that I started to explore the combination more profoundly. The sweetness balanced the bitter chocolate I loved so much (70% cocoa and higher), and I found that the combination was the perfect potion for wooing women – or so I hoped.

Finally in 2003, Gabriella and I found ourselves in Portugal. Up until that point, I knew that I liked Port wine, but I really didn’t know much about it. This all changed when we tasted more port in those three weeks than I had of table wines in the past year combined! Tawnies, Vintage, Rubys, LBVs, White, the list goes on and on. We fell in love with it, so much so, that by the end of our 3 weeks, we hauled 2 cases of assorted bottles back to the States in our carry on bags(when it was still not a crime to do so!). It was quite the experience! It was also shortly after this that we started to experiment with dark chocolate and Port. In our house, we found that we always had a bottle of Port open and usually a bar or two of chocolate, whereby provoking many evenings experimenting with the two. For us, it was perfect. I remember at the time mentioning it to some other Port lovers and having them decry it as sacrilege and claiming it didn’t work. We didn’t care. We loved it!

That brings us to today, or rather the other night. I decided it had been awhile since we last paired the two, and so Iwent out and bought a bar of milk chocolate (not a favorite, but I wanted to compare) and 70% dark chocolate (sadly a poor example of good chocolate). With 7 bottles of Port in front of us, we tasted each with milk chocolate and then with the dark chocolate. The results were telling. Without a second breathe, we quickly agreed to throw away the milk chocolate. In this case, it was overly sweet and fought for attention with the Ports like a little kid whining at his parents knees. The combination was thick on the tongue and distracting as we sipped the beautiful wines in front of us. To clarify, the majority of the wines were LBVs, but we agreed that the milk chocolate would most likely taint any port you put in front of it.

So we moved on to the poorly made dark chocolate. Despite its faults, the pairing was much better, and in fact, beautiful at times. The lack of sweetness and the intense earthy tannins seemed to combine effortlessly with the Port, making for a experience that was all around, well, yummy!

I have to say,though, we did buy another block of a higher grade dark chocolate yesterday which we are looking forward to pairing with the remainder of Vintage and Tawny ports we have left to try. Maybe I’ll add some more comments here after we taste through them, but I will say that I do love the Port and Chocolate experience. How about you? Do you like chocolate with any wine? Do you think we’re crazy? Tell us in the comments!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

Extra thought: Here in Spain, we have the infamous chocolate and churros. Churros are basically, deep fried dough, while the chocolate is a molten concoction to deep them in. I wonder if Port would pair well, and if so, which one? Hmmm time for some research…

  • RichardA

    I generally enjoy chocolate, and chocolate based desserts, with certain dessert wines. The dessert wines though have to be made from dark red wines such as syrah or monastrell. One particular favorite is the Senorio de Barahonda Bellum El Remate, a Spanish dessert wine made from Monastrell. I have once or twice had Ports with chocolate as well. The pairing worked very well but I cannot recall the type of Port that it was.

  • Bill

    I just fnished my once a year box of Neuhaus chocolates. It only took five days, as my self-control seems to be slipping! Each day after dinner the chocolate was paired with a different red wine, primarily Spanish Grenache blends and one California Pinot Noir. I love wine with great chocolate.

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    I generally enjoy chocolate, and chocolate based desserts, with certain dessert wines. The dessert wines though have to be made from dark red wines such as syrah or monastrell. One particular favorite is the Senorio de Barahonda Bellum El Remate, a Spanish dessert wine made from Monastrell. I have once or twice had Ports with chocolate as well. The pairing worked very well but I cannot recall the type of Port that it was.

  • Jeff Cleveland

    Speaking of chocolate pairing I had a Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d' Acqui yesterday with a Bittersweet Dark Chocolate with 70% Cocoa. The red fruit in the wine brought out a fruity quality in the chocolate and it was amazing. It was so delicious. I'll have to try it with Port and if you ever see the Banfi, give it a try.

  • http://www.indiscriminateideas.blogspot.com Jeff Cleveland

    Speaking of chocolate pairing I had a Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’ Acqui yesterday with a Bittersweet Dark Chocolate with 70% Cocoa. The red fruit in the wine brought out a fruity quality in the chocolate and it was amazing. It was so delicious. I’ll have to try it with Port and if you ever see the Banfi, give it a try.

  • Dr. Debs

    I love Brachetto with bittersweet chocolate, Jeff! Great pairing. OK, to answer this post, I went and made some Valrhona Chocolate pudding (71% bittersweet). Am going to go open a Warre Warrior Ruby Port. Stay tuned. I'll be back with results. Thanks, Ryan, for putting me on a mission…

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    I love Brachetto with bittersweet chocolate, Jeff! Great pairing. OK, to answer this post, I went and made some Valrhona Chocolate pudding (71% bittersweet). Am going to go open a Warre Warrior Ruby Port. Stay tuned. I’ll be back with results. Thanks, Ryan, for putting me on a mission…

  • Dr. Debs

    OK, sorry for the delay. The ruby port was excellent with the bittersweet chocolate pudding. The textures as well as the flavors worked nicely with each other. However, I can certainly see that milk chocolate would not have been the thing AT ALL. You needed that dark, slightly sweet richness of the port to have a dark, almost tannic foil and the dark chocolate provided it.

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    OK, sorry for the delay. The ruby port was excellent with the bittersweet chocolate pudding. The textures as well as the flavors worked nicely with each other. However, I can certainly see that milk chocolate would not have been the thing AT ALL. You needed that dark, slightly sweet richness of the port to have a dark, almost tannic foil and the dark chocolate provided it.

  • Ryan

    Thanks debs for the idea! Also I agree with both of you Brachetto is great for chocolate. Though I'm sad we didn't get more ideas from our readers! Oh well, now we're thinking of what will be good with Cava…

  • http://catavino.net Ryan

    Thanks debs for the idea! Also I agree with both of you Brachetto is great for chocolate. Though I’m sad we didn’t get more ideas from our readers! Oh well, now we’re thinking of what will be good with Cava…

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  • BillyD

    This is an older post, but I'll add my two cents. I love tawny ports with dark chocolate. In fact, I'm having some Reynella 12 year tawny paired with Ghirardelli dark chocolate with espresso beans right now. This is my favorite way to wind down in the evening.

  • BillyD

    This is an older post, but I’ll add my two cents. I love tawny ports with dark chocolate. In fact, I’m having some Reynella 12 year tawny paired with Ghirardelli dark chocolate with espresso beans right now. This is my favorite way to wind down in the evening.

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