Chocolate goes with anything, even wine

The recent revelation that chocolate, specifically dark because it has less sugar, is actually “good for you” was something that many of us have known for ages.

Chocolate makes us feel good. It is more than just the deliciousness, the richness, the aromas and the intense flavors. Chocolate just seems to make things better, right?

So scientific evidence that dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and a bit of iron and that eating chocolate causes our body to produce endorphins (the burst of productive energy you get from exercise as well as the giddy glow of falling in love) was just the excuse we needed to justify learning more about chocolate!

The market responded.  A multitude of small businesses have blossomed by developing new ways to enjoy chocolate. There are cocoas with chunks of cocoa nibs (the raw bean from the cocoa plant) as well as cocoas blended with rose petals and spices. New chocolate bars made with no added sugars but filled with nuts and fruit are offered as ‘fuel’ bars.

There are drinking chocolates, like the intensely smooth creamy cups served at Peterson’s Gallery in Baker City and even wine and beers made with chocolate.

If you consult the internet, the convenient encyclopedia of our times, you’ll find dozens (if not hundreds) of contradictions about pairing wine with chocolate. Everyone has an opinion and there are “rules’”about what wines should be paired with what foods.

I’ve always, and not so secretly, believed that rules were made for breaking. I’d even say that regarding chocolate, those rules are so “last century.” It’s not like we’re suggesting serving Woodward Canyon Cabernet with Hershey’s Kisses!

Really good chocolate desserts are more about texture, intensity and layers of flavors than just sugar sweetness. That’s where the marriage of wine becomes an interesting conversation.

In general, the wine should be sweeter than the chocolate you’re serving it with. If you want to serve red wine, you’ll find that bittersweet chocolate works best whether you choose dark chocolate truffles, Pots de Creme or the Bella CocoaNut Tea Cake.

The two reds that go well with dark chocolate are the also the main grapes grown in the Northwest, Pinot noir from the Willamette Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley/ Walla Walla area.

Pinot noir is considered the most “feminine” of reds and can be multi-faceted, haunting, sensual, earthy, subtle and even ethereal. It’s a wine I describe as curvy and soft, a wine for lovers!

Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be more powerful and bold.  It can have complex aromas including plums, berries, cedar, smoke, leather and tends to be lush and velvety when well made. It’s got strong shoulders and long lean lines, it’s the real cowboy (cowgirl) of the wine world.

There are dessert wines from around the world that pair well with chocolate.

Orange Muscat with white chocolate. Ruby Port with milk chocolate and Tawny Port for chocolate with nuts.  Madeira with Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (a game changing combination!) Banyuls (and wines like Maury) are perfect for Chocolate Dipped Apricots or Chocolate Orange gelato.

Moscato and the softer sparking wines like Cremant, Cava, Loire and Limoux (which are also the best values in bubbly wine) are a safe bet for any chocolate dessert from profiteroles, pavlova and petit fours to peppermint patties.

Chocolate is one of the delights of life that we give special attention to in the month of February. Like fine wine, it’s something that with moderate indulgence can elevate any moment to a more memorable and cherished page in our collected stories. Cin Cin!


Beverly Calder owns Bella.

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