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The Easter baskets have been emptied out, the Easter eggs have all been found, and the living room is littered with excelsior Easter grass, candy wrappers, and stray jelly beans. The Easter Bunny has retired for another year, and you're ready for a good long rest yourself.
But say, those Easter candies left behind when the kids finally tumbled into bed with visions of Peeps and Creme Eggs dancing in their heads are looking pretty good, and surely nobody will mind if the grown-ups snack on a few themselves. But, being grown-ups, perhaps a little liquid refreshment is in order with which to wash them down.
At first glance, you might think that candy and alcohol don't necessarily go very well together. But if you think of Easter treats as dessert, then there's no good reason why you shouldn't pour something a little spirited as an accompaniment.
A common misconception about dessert wines is that they should be as sweet as the confections they accompany, if not sweeter. In fact, many connoisseurs will tell you that very sweet wines go best with modestly sugared desserts (biscotti, pound cake, and the like), while very sweet desserts benefit from the counterpoint of something almost dry and probably a bit acidic to cut through all that opulence.
Click here, then, for some perhaps unexpected wine suggestions for common Easter candies.
The French often say that the perfect accompaniment to chocolate is Banyuls, a so-called vin doux naturel, or natural sweet wine, from the Mediterranean town of the same name in France's Roussillon region. Made from grenache grapes, it is lightly fortified with neutral alcohol and has a concentration of fruit, itself a little chocolatey, that suggests ruby port to some tasters. Banyuls is available in the United States, but can be hard to find, so a good substitute would be a rich, ripe zinfandel, for instance Cline Ancient Vines zin. Or, if you want to splurge, try something from the masterful Turley.
These foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, with their yellow-and-white fondant interior (mimicking the interior of real eggs), are a longtime Easter favorite in the English-speaking world — America included. Cadbury recently announced that it was changing the formula of the chocolate used, but this affects only eggs made in the United Kingdom. The American version, produced by Hershey, will remain the same. The nutty flavor and defining acidity of a medium-dry tawny port is a perfect complement to these not-overly-sweet treats. Warre's Otima 10-year-old is a lovely example.
This article was originally published March 16, 2015
Wines From Dry to Sweet (Chart)
We charted the sweetness in wine from bone-dry to richly sweet. Sweetness (and how we discuss it) is one of the most commonly misunderstood topics in wine, but with a little clarification you can taste and talk like a pro.
We’ll hopefully resolve any confusion for you around terminology, and then give you a look at actual sweetness levels of various wines. You might be surprised to notice that many sweet-tasting wines are less sweet than they seem and many dry-seeming wines are more sweet than you might realize.
Pairing Wine with Ham
Pairing Wine by Style of Ham
There are 3 major production methods of ham, which include salting (dry-curing), wet-curing and smoking. However, since some producers use a combination of all 3 methods, we’ve organized ham by taste (and cited a few examples) so that you can get a better idea of the flavor pairing ideology.
Perfect plate of Prosciutto di Parma source
Dry-Cured, Aged Ham
Thinly-sliced, bold flavored hams with a chewy texture and typically higher salt content.
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A classic example of this style of ham, that nearly all of us know, is the Italian favorite, Prosciutto. You’ll find ham in this style typically served in micro-thin sheets as a melt-in-your mouth appetizer.
The high saltiness factor and dryness of the meat begs for sparkling wine. You’ll also do very well with a sparkling Rosé or even a sparkling red. Other great pairing options include still Rosé, crisp minerally and herbaceous white wines, dry Sherry (perhaps a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry), and dry Madeira (such as a 5-year Verdelho or Sercial Madeira).
Yes please! Blackforest bagelwich source
Savory and Smoky Ham
Medium to thick cut sliced ham with a medium to bold flavor that’s not sweet.
This style is typically smoked but ranges in size from full-sized fresh hams that you bake in the oven to pre-sliced ham that you buy at the grocery store. This less-sweet style of ham could also include processed ham like Mortadella and Spam. Since this style of ham is juicier and not as salty as a dry-cured ham, it is one of the better choices to match with lighter red and rosé wines.
- Black Forest Ham
- Country-Cured non-glazed Ham
- Smoked Ham Hocks for Soup
With less sweetness and more texture, you’ll be delighted with a medium-bodied fruity red with moderate acidity. There is a great range of wines to choose from in this style and here are a few favorites to know: Grenache-based reds (such as the GSM blend), Zinfandel, new-world style Pinot Noir, Zweigelt (from Austria!), Dornfelder (Germany), deeply-colored Rosé, The Corvina-based red wines of Valpolicella, Aged Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Primitivo-Negroamaro blends from Puglia, and “Secco” (dry) Lambrusco.
Canadian Bacon aka “back bacon” source
Sweet and Salty Ham
These are typically medium to thick cut hams with a chewy texture and noticeably sweet flavor.
Think Canadian bacon. Since this style of ham is sweet, you’ll want to match with wines that are also sweet or taste very fruity. You might be surprised by some of the recommended pairings but they taste outstanding!
- Canadian Bacon
- Honey Baked Ham
- Glazed Baked Hams
- Char Siu (Chinese Barbecue Pork–Technically not ham, but fits the flavor profile!)
The best way to pair with foods that have sweetness is to have a wine with sweetness too. On the more dry side, pick a Riesling, Chenin Blanc or White Zin/Merlot. On the sweeter side go for Moscato, Brachetto d’Acqui, Vin Santo and White Port. You can probably get away with more new-world style reds including Australian Shiraz, South African Pinotage and American Petite Sirah.
Here are a few pairing ideas for wine with ham to get you started.
Hawaiian-Style Pizza Canadian bacon and pineapple may be a kid’s favorite but some of us still love it! This pizza pairing is ideal with the sparkling red wine Lambrusco. Another great choice would be equal parts cheap red wine and Coca Cola. In Barcelona they call it Kalimotxo (“Cali-Mocho”). Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza The Italian classic combination deserves a classic Italian red wine. For this pairing, we love the wines of Sardegna, particularly a red called Cannonau (which is actually Grenache) and Carignano (aka Carignan). They are medium-bodied, leathery, and fruity, and can be found for under $14 a bottle! Croque-Monsieur (Monte Cristo) Sandwich The French were really the ones who started the whole fried-ham-and-cheese-sandwich-thing, which is why we like to call it a croque-monsieur (“croke-mon-sewer”). While this sandwich is outstanding with a racy off-dry Riesling (think Rheingau) we also love the herbal flavors that wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Grüner Veltliner and Verdejo add to this dish. Split Pea and Ham Soup Split pea is one of the hardest foods to pair with wine because it tends to make wine taste like dirt. However, if you turn to red wines with high acidity like Zweigelt (from Austria) or Valpolicella Classico (from Veneto) you’ll find a match. Another great off-the-wall option that’s surprisingly good is a dry-style Sercial Madeira. White Bean & Kale Soup with Smoked Ham Hock Saveur has a drool-worthy recipe for an Italy-inspired soup using ham hock. So, to match the Italian motif of bitter vs. sweet try a Negroamaro or Negroamaro/Primitivo blend from Puglia. Negroamaro translates to “black bitter” but the wines are a perfect balance of dark fruit and tannin. Eggs Benedict This dish is so rich with creamy hollandaise and sweet ham that you actually need something to cut it. Most opt for orange juice but we think that a Grapefruit and French Crémant Mimosa would be the bees knees.
Classic Regional Ham Pairings
In Europe, there are many different types of ham with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. PDO is a classification method similar to wine or cheese (think Parmigiano-Reggiano) that guarantees the regional specialty.
Try local regional wine with it! Here are a few great examples:
Spain Jamón Ibérico with dry Sherry Italy Prosciutto with Moscato d’Asti Germany Speck with Rheingau Riesling
THE BEST DONUT AND WINE PAIRINGS
Okay, so wine and donuts may not be the most obvious pairing, but there’s no reason why two of the best substances on earth should remain apart. Especially these days, when donuts are becoming less a childhood treat, and more a wait-in-line-for-twenty-minutes-for-your-artisan-donut affair. And especially when — surprisingly — they can actually taste great together!
These wines will help turn your box of donuts into an elegant brunch for friends, or will give you an excuse to polish off that last donut while you sip your glass of wine after the kids are in bed.
Glazed Donut + Chardonnay
An oaky chardonnay can overpower a lot of sugary sweets, so it’s best when paired with something simple. The glazed donut, with its underlying hints of vanilla and toffee, go perfectly with the same flavors in the chardonnay. The wine manages to bring out these flavors in the donut, rather than mask them. And despite the sweetness of the donut, the chardonnay remains smooth.
Double Chocolate Donut + Syrah
In life, there are seldom two more perfect things than chocolate and wine. Well here you can do one better with chocolate, wine, and donuts! The bold double whammy of the chocolate cake donut plus the chocolate frosting pairs well with the dark jammy fruit-forward flavors of the syrah. It’s almost like drinking a chocolate-dipped strawberry. That happens to be laced with alcohol.
Jelly Filled Donut + Rosé
Rosés can have big fruit flavor, a delightfully tangy sparkle, and just a hint of bitterness. When paired with a raspberry jam-filled donut, the bitterness softens, giving the raspberry flavors in the wine center stage. At the same time, the wine mutes the sugary sweetness of the donut, morphing it from a children’s treat into an elegant brunch item. Well, elegant except for the jelly on your chin. Go for a sparkling rosé here if you can find one.
Chocolate Frosted Donut with Sprinkles + Prosecco
The airiness of the donut lurking underneath the chocolate frosting is a perfect match for a similarly airy, bubble-filled wine. The sugary frosting brings out the sweetness of the prosecco, so be sure to choose a dry wine to avoid being overpowered by the sugar — both in terms of taste and in the sugar crash that may follow.
Powdered Sugar Donut Hole + Riesling
Riesling is sweet, yes, but it also has quite a bit of acid in it. Pairing it with the donut mutes some of the acidity, while bringing forward the lemony accent of the wine. The real magic happens with the donut, though. The wine cuts through the powdered sugar that can sometimes overwhelm the donut, allowing the spice in the donut to shine through.
Strawberry Frosted Donut + Moscato
The slightly sparkly, more-than-slightly sweet moscato still has a good tang to it. Alone, the fruit tones in the wine can be hard to pick out, but when paired with the donut, the strawberry flavors really shine through. The sweetness in the wine and the donut get amped up when paired, but fall just short of cloying. Nonetheless, a definite dessert pair — almost like eating your donut and drinking it too. Although, you know, still healthy (because fruit).
Old-Fashioned Donut + Zinfandel
The old-fashioned donut is less sweet than most, allowing you to pair this with a drier wine. Try a zinfandel, with its smoky fruity flavor and spicy finish. It expertly brings out the surprisingly spicy flavors often masked in the misnamed “plain” donut, and sets your palate up perfectly for the next sip of wine. Ah, the circle of life.
Boston Cream Donut + Port
The port with its higher alcohol content and undeniable sweetness is made complex by its woody finish. This donut-port pairing causes some of the port’s complexity to vanish, leaving it eminently drinkable. Perhaps too eminent. Exercise caution with this pair!
Apple Cider Donut + Sherry
While sherry may evoke images of Mad Men or Columbo, this drink should not be relegated to 1960s nostalgia. It is reminiscent of caramel, with a high alcohol content that gives the back of your throat a bit of a kick. And what goes better with caramel than apples? The high fat content of the donut serves to deaden the alcohol taste, which allows the sherry to draw out the donut’s apple and cinnamon flavors. A delightful combination, no bell bottoms needed.
Maple Bacon Long John + Champagne
Bacon, when done right, should snap, crackle, and pop. So too should a delightfully bubbly champagne. The two together are a perfect match. The champagne bubbles away some of the saltiness of the bacon, and the sweetness of the maple brings out some of the sweetness of the champagne. Together, everything is just … more. Which is a very good thing when it comes to wine and donuts.
3. Recipe From Fresh Apples
Apple wine recipe provides the perfect refreshment on a summer’s day spent with good food and even better friends and family.
Apple has been a key flavour in cider and beers for years but is less well known for its appearance in wine.
With a smooth consistency, a magnificent apple wine will rival both beer and cider options.
Our recipe will even match them for their alcohol content with apple wine mostly featuring between 5-8%.
If you doubt our delicious apple wine then come and try it yourself.
Ingredients per 1 gallon (6 bottles) of apple wine
- 8 pounds of fresh apples
- 1.5 pounds of granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon of citric acid or 1 organic lemon juice (optional – some people like it)
- 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient (different brands might slightly differ so make sure to follow the instructions on the pack)
- 1/2 teaspoon of wine tannin
- 1/2 teaspoon of pectin enzyme (optional, it helps to break down all solids after the fermentation)
- 1-2 campden tablets (optional – crushed and dissolved, for sterilization)
- make sure to add enough water to make 1 gallon
- Add chopped raisins and 1 gallon of boiling hot water to a pot and simmer for around 10 minutes.
- Let the mixture cool before adding sugar. Simultaneously add chopped apples to the mixture. Move the contents into a sterilized bin and ferment for around 8 hours.
- Add the additional ingredients, give it a thorough stir, then leave to rest for 5 days.
- Strain your contents into a demijohn and store for around 3 weeks in a dark and cool setting.
- Rack your wine to another demijohn then leave for 3 more weeks.
- Bottle your tasty wine and let it mature for around one more month. Taste and enjoy!
What is a Dry White Wine?
A dry white is simply any white wine that isn&apost sweet. For cooking, you want a wine with a high acidity known in wine-speak as "crisp." Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and dry sparkling wines are especially good. Fuller whites with strong, oaky flavors, like some Chardonnays, don&apost work as well for cooking because they are lower in acidity and don&apost lend as much punch as the crispier wines. When reduced by cooking, the oaky, buttery flavors turn bitter and don&apost add anything pleasant to a dish.
1. Vinho Verde
- Fun fact: vinho verde is not a grape, like you may suspect. It is a region in northern Portugal where this easy-drinking white wine is produced. Though we are familiar with this wine as a sparkly white, the region produces far more reds that are typically not sold abroad (which should definitely be on your list if you find yourself there). Pair with flaky white fish, pork or buttery foods.
- Over 90% of muscadet wine is produced in the Loire Valley in France. This dry, highly acidic wine boasts a fruit-forward flavor that make it perfect for shellfish, fish and chips or pickled vegetables. Fun fact: if you see "sur lie" on the label, this means the wine was aged over dry yeast and will have a slightly oilier mouthfeel. Try with our Oven-Fried Fish & Chips.
- Moscato is made majorly from muscat grapes. Muscat grapes are an ancient grape found all across Europe. For this reason, they have incredible variety (in names and flavors) compared to many other grapes. They can be anywhere from dry and still to sweet and sparkling. One thing unifies all muscat wines: their luscious perfume. Pair Moscato with acidic, rich and spicy foods, such as a charcuterie board, cream sauces or tomatoes.
4. Pinot Grigio
- Pinot grigio? Or pinot gris? What is the difference, if any? They are made from the same grape but they are hardly the same product. Pinot gris is thought to have first been produced in the Burgundy region of France, which led to its Italian reincarnation: pinot grigio. Pinot grigio is light, simple and almost tastes like candy. Pinto gris is usually a bit richer and deeper in flavor, while still being a light-bodied wine. Pair one of these white pinots with shellfish or a creamy cow&aposs milk cheese, such as a triple-cream brie.
5. Sauvignon Blanc
- Sauvignon blanc is one of the most recognizable wine flavors in the world. Its cultivation started in the Loire Valley of France, but was popularized in the eighties by wine makers in New Zealand. You can taste the places through their grapes. French sauvignon is delicate, zesty and herbaceous, while its New Zealand counterpart is exotic and tropical. Fun fact: sauvignon blanc is a parent grape to the ever-popular cabernet sauvignon. Enjoy this classic white with fresh herbs and rich-flavored foods.
- Rieslings can get a bad rep, which is certainly not deserved. There are certain types of German rieslings that make the finest white wines in the world. We know what you&aposre thinking, but it&aposs not all sweet. Several types of rieslings are bone-dry. The International Riesling Foundation actually created this sweetness scale to help label wines more accurately and combat this misconception. Pair this high-acid, fruity wine with Indian or Asian dishes (takeout, anyone?). Dry rieslings also pair well with fatty meats like duck and bacon.
- Chardonnay is the jack of all trades, as far as white wine goes. From when it started being produced in Burgundy, France, chardonnay is another white wine that has skyrocketed in popularity. There are two major categories of chardonnay: oaked and unoaked. This refers to the conditions they are fermented in. Oaked wines are richer and creamier, with an almost bready taste, whereas their unoaked companions are lighter and zestier. As a bonus, some wineries are even making sparkling chardonnays. Pair this tried-and-true classic with fish, red meat or one of our Healthy Chicken Recipes.
- Sherry is having a moment, especially in the bodega scene. When you think of fortified or dessert wines, you may immediately think sweet and heavy. However, that is not the case with all sherry wines. Sherry can be very dry, like the fino varietal, or sweet and rich, like the Pedro Ximenez (PX) varietal. A little myth busting: sherry is not just an aperitif or post-dinner treat. Pair it with cheese, olives or ham.
3. Orange Wine
- Aside from having a beautiful color, orange wine is white wine if the skins were left on. The skins add a higher antioxidant content and more tannins to orange wine, making them taste more bitter and dry than a typical white. To accentuate their bold and delicious flavor, pair with bold foods such as curry or fermented foods like our Homemade Kimchi.
4. Vin Santo
- This wine hails from Tuscany, Italy and is made from a fusion of two white grapes. This sweet wine is aged in wooden barrels to give it its rich amber color. Traditionally, vin santo is a staple of Easter celebrations and is served with almond biscotti. For all other occasions, pair with nuts, fruits and desserts. (We think it&aposd be especially delicious with our Nut & Honey Biscotti!)
5. Cotes de Provence Rose
- Similar to orange wine, rose gets its beautiful hues from some contact with the skin of the grape. Unlike orange wine, this contact is just long enough to turn the white flesh of the grapes pink. Like there are several types of red and white wines, there are several types of rose (yay!) Try a Cotes de Provence Rose with a charcuterie board, like one of our Easy Cheese Boards & Appetizer Party Boards, or a salad.
6. White Zinfandel
- White zinfandel is produced strictly in the United States, and was the result of a happy accident when making traditional red zinfandel. In the 1970s, winemakers in California skimmed off excess liquid from their fermenting zinfandel, hoping it would intensify the red wines flavor and color. The leftover juice was only partially fermented, with significant sugar from the grapes leftover. This sweet pink almost-rose became what we now know as white zinfandel. Try with poultry, cheese or appetizers.
- "Beaujolais" actually refers to the region in France where this wine is produced. This light red wine is made with Gamay grapes, and is often enjoyed young, without much aging. The fruity and earthy notes of the wine, along with its low tannin content, make it an easy drinker. Pair this relaxed French red with meats, salad, cheese or anything raspberry. We think it&aposd be delicious with our Grilled Baby Beets with Raspberry-Thyme Glaze.
2. Pinot Noir
- Pinot noir is a delicate, light-bodied red wine that is famed for the finesse it takes to make. Wine makers must be careful to not let the alcohol get too high or to age it in oak for too long, or the delicate grapes will spoil. Fun fact: the pulp of pinot noir grapes is commonly added to sparkling wines, like Champagne. Pair with meats, mushrooms or a goat&aposs milk cheese.
- Tempranillo used to be the trademark Spanish wine. Though it is still majority produced in the old world, the new world is starting to get in on producing this spice-forward vino. For tempranillo, the label can tell a story. Wines called "tinto" are young and unaged, whereas "reserva" and "gran reserva" are aged up to 2 and 4 years, respectively. Try with meat, spicy foods or root vegetables.
- Ever wondered what the difference is between syrah and shiraz? The answer lies in where it is produced. Old world wines are called syrah, and typically have an elegant and refined taste. New world wines are called shiraz and are bolder, more jammy and more peppery than their traditional counterparts. Pair with bold flavors, like grilled meat, cheese or sausage. At your next dinner party, pair a glass of syrah with our Sausage & Pepper Medley.
- Big, bold and bursting with berry flavor, malbec is a classic full-bodied red wine. It is the pride and joy of the Cahors region in France however, the grape is grown all over the world. Higher elevation malbecs from Argentina have higher tannins and acidity than their low-elevation elders. Pair a malbec wine with a hearty steak, another red meat or pizza.
6. Cabernet Sauvignon
- Contrary to what many people may think, the legendary cabernet sauvignon was born in southwest France, not the Bordeaux region. This grape is versatile and can grow successfully in nearly any climate, which is why it is one of the more popular grape varieties in the world. Cabernets can vary a lot in flavor and flair, but at their core they are full-bodied, fruity and high in tannins. Try a cab sav with cheese, meat, fresh herbs or chocolate.
The bottom line is that wines can come in several shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. These descriptions are to give you inspiration to enjoy your wine your way. A delicious, well-paired glass of wine never goes out of season or style. Cheers!
Which Wines Have The Highest Alcohol Content?
Sipping a glass of vino seems like a mellow alternative to downing beers, but wine drinkers might be surprised to learn that it's actually the boozier choice. Brews like Guinness and Corona have an alcohol content of 4.6% while even the lightest wines on the market are at least 12% ABV. But not all bottles are created equal, and whether you're a fan of red, white or rosé, it's good to know what contributes to the difference in alcohol content between wines.
First, a bit of background: As grapes grow on the vine, they develop more and more sugar content until they're picked. During the winemaking process, the grapes' sugars are converted into alcohol, so the more time they have to mature, the boozier the end product. Another element that comes into play is the climate where the grapes are grown. Cool temperatures in places like Germany, France and even New York result in less-sweet styles of wine, while warm regions like Argentina, Australia and California make for rich, full-bodied varieties. So where does your favorite vino fall on the scale? Here's the breakdown.
Low Alcohol Content (12.5% and under)
The grapes are picked early on for varieties like White Zinfandel, Muscadet, German Riesling, Vinho Verde, and some rosés, which gives them their acidic profile. Sparkling wines like Asti and Prosecco also fall into this category&mdashif you're in the mood for bubbly and watching your intake, they're fairly responsible choices.
Medium Alcohol Content (12.5%&ndash13.5%)
This is where the majority of dry reds and whites fall. Drinkable whites in this range include varieties from Alsace and the Loire and Bordeaux regions of France, New York Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Italian Pinot Grigio. If you prefer more color in your glass, this ABV also includes French and Spanish rosés, French Beaujolais and Burgundy, Bordeaux and Italian Chianti.
Medium-High Alcohol Content (13.5%&ndash14.5%)
As you move up the scale, you'll notice bolder flavors as well as higher price points. You can thank warm climates and sweeter grapes for these boozy whites: Chardonnay from Australia, Chile and California Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from California and Sauternes from France. Popular reds like Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, Chilean Merlot, Californian Pinot Noir and Syrah and sought-after Italian Barolo are also on the high end of the ABV scale.
High Alcohol Content (14.5% and up)
It's rare for naturally made wines to reach such a high ABV, which is why most varieties here are fortified&mdashthat means they're made with the addition of distilled grape brandy that ups the alcohol content. Sweet and fruity California Zinfandel and Petite Sirah as well as rich after-dinner sippers like Portuguese Madeira, Spanish sherry and Italian Amarone pack a seriously boozy punch, so sip slowly!
Chocolate Wine Pairings: How to Pair Wine and Chocolate
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Wine and chocolate are possibly the two best food groups in the world. Whether enjoying a classy tasting party, having a night out on the town, or getting over a bad breakup, wine and chocolate make everything better. But if you want to elevate your wine and chocolate experience, consider indulging in some of these chocolate/wine pairings.
The unfortunate truth is that when pairing chocolate with wine, things can go wrong quickly. You could pour your favorite glass of dry red wine and pull out your favorite chunk of dark chocolate, only for both of them to suddenly taste bitter and sour. Luckily, this chocolate/wine pairing guide will help you avoid that confusion.
Discover what wine pairs well with chocolate and how to pair wine and chocolate. Whether you just want to taste chocolate and wine after a long day or your plan on sharing your newfound knowledge with your friends at the next get-together, you'll be surprised at this tasty, sweet combination.
Tips for Pairing Chocolate and Wine
- Choose a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate you are pairing it with. Otherwise, you could end up with two very sweet tastes overpowering each other, instead of a harmonious and complimentary pairing.
- Pair wines and chocolates that are similar in intensity and weight. Light, elegant chocolates go well with light, elegant wines rich, strong chocolates go well with rich, full-bodied wines.
- If you are sampling multiple pairings, work your way up. Start with the light wines and chocolates and end with the rich wines and chocolates.
- Beware polyphenols. Don't double up on bitter and sour tastes a bittersweet dark chocolate alongside a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec will leave you gagging.
Milk Chocolate Wine Pairings
For a high-quality milk chocolate, target choices that are half cream and half chocolate. The extra fat from the cream will make milk chocolate quite easy to pair with wine.
You might want to choose Pinot Noir for its silky tannins and ripe, red fruit. To complement the smooth cocoa butter in milk chocolate, a medium-bodied Merlot is also a good choice. Of course, other sweet wines such as Rieslings, Muscats, and other dessert wines go excellent with the lovely, sweet tastes of milk chocolate. Or, you could go for a little bit of fun to go with a fruity, bubbly wine to bring out the chocolate accents.
The Bottom Line:
Pinot Noir, Merlot, Madeira, Moscatel de Setubal, PX Sherry, Creamy Sherry, Rasteau, Aged Vintage Port, Rutherglen Muscat
Dark Chocolate Wine Pairing
A true dark chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids. Because they can easily verge into being too bitter, be careful with dry wines.
Rather, dark chocolates pair well with full-bodied, robust wines, perhaps with a smidge of fruit or chocolatey flavors. Zinfandels are ideal for this. In fact, at the Wine & Chocolate weekends in Lodi, a wine growing region in California, there are frequent dark chocolate/Zinfandel pairings. Another good choice would be a Cabernet Sauvignon. If the cocoa solid content is getting higher, say around 55%, you may want to consider a Pinot Noir or Merlot.
The Bottom Line:
Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz, Port, Sherry, Vin Santo del Chianti, Pedro Ximinez, Banyuls, Chinato
White Chocolate Wine Pairings
Believe it or not, white chocolate is not technically chocolate -- sacrilegious, but true. White chocolate does contain cocoa fat, but it contains no actual coca. This makes it incredibly versatile in wine pairings.
Because it is so mellow and buttery, go with sweet sherry, or the subtle bubbles of Moscato d'Asti. Play with complimentary fruit flavors like an Orange Muscat. If you go with a Vintage Graham&rsquos Port, they will taste like blueberries and cream together. Additionally, white chocolate is the only chocolate that's truly suited for dry red wines!
The Bottom Line:
Ice wines, late-harvest Rieslings, Moscato, Cream Sherry, Brachetto d&rsquoAcqui, Lambrusco, Sweet Tokaji, Rosé Port, Beaujolais
All of this chocolate ruining your diet? Food and wine pairings don’t have to be indulgent. Check out these Tips for Pairing Wine with Healthy Food
5 Decadent Sweet Wine & Dessert Pairings
Despite a slow and steady rise among American foodies, dessert wines are still getting the short end of the booze stick, often losing to well liquor as a dessert companion despite the existence of a perfect off-dry wine for everything from cheesecake to Almond Joy bars.
To begin with, forget what you think you know about dessert wines because what’s available has changed drastically in recent years, and is no longer your granny’s “Port” wine syrup or cream Sherry.
Happily, these painfully sweet and unbalanced dessert wines are disappearing and being replaced by complex, delicious elixirs where residual sugar is a bonus instead of a crippling demerit. As international dry wines have become easier to import and sell in the U.S., they’ve encouraged their importers and sommeliers to showcase traditional sweet wines alongside dry styles, and that’s pushing the swill toward extinction.
36 Gifts and Gadgets For Anyone Who Loves Drinks
As with dry wines, there’s enormous diversity in dessert wines, since ancient winemaking regions crafted sweet wines locally using a wealth of techniques like drying ripe grapes or using only frozen berries. As a result, dessert wines exist across the sweetness spectrum, from slightly off-dry to unctuous, candied examples, and thus satisfy a wealth of palates and a bounty of desserts.
Like pairing red wines with red meat, there are simple guidelines for combining solid and liquid desserts for the tastiest results. To start, the wine should always be at least as sweet as the dessert. Think of the difference between tart, fluffy strawberry shortcake, and gooey fudge brownies — the chocolate brownies have exponentially more sugar than the fruit-laden shortcake. As a result, a very sweet wine like ruby Port is a natural choice for brownies (as opposed to dry Cabernet) while mildly sweet demi-sec Champagne would match the sweetness of strawberry shortcake.
Secondly, the shelf life of fortified and sugary wines is much longer than the dry counterparts, demolishing the “but I can never drink a whole bottle,” excuse for avoiding dessert wines. Re-corked and in the fridge, sweet wines will last 4-6 weeks, because their residual sugar acts as a preservative. Subsequently, a glass or two per week is all it takes to enjoy a full bottle, even if you’re sipping solo.
In short, there are five dessert wines every drinker should know: Port, Sherry, Botrytised wines, Madeira, and Vin Santo. Dozens more exist, but these five are widely available mainstays alongside both traditional and outlandish desserts (like fun-size candy bars and other vending machine delights). Plus, they won’t break the bank.
Try: Fonseca 10 Year Tawny + Stilton Cheese with Walnuts or Twix Bars
Port is the world’s oldest dessert wine, a sweet and fortified red hailing from North-Central Portugal. Though it comes in many styles, a ten-year Port from a well-known producer (like Fonseca, Dow, or Sandeman) is the easiest and most reliable Port for everyday desserts. These bottles are in the $30 range, and have loads of cooked fruit flavors — cherry pie, cooked raspberries, coffee, and cocoa in a bottle. With chocolate desserts or savory items like blue cheeses, walnuts and dried fruit, these rich and high octane wines can’t be beat.
Try: A. R. Valdespino El Candado Pedro Ximénez Sherry + Classic Bread Pudding or Raisinettes
From neighboring Spain, Sherry is an elusive, often oxidized, wine that can be made either dry or sweet. Its sweet versions, made from the Pedro Ximenez grape, are super-unctuous and combine notes of raisins, figs, and caramel with a salty tang. They’re natural matches for creamy, butterscotch desserts like bread pudding, flan, or Milky Way bars.
Try: Chateau Doisy-Védrines 2005 Sauternes + Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée or Instant Vanilla Pudding and canned peaches
Botrytised wines encompass a huge selection of the world’s most coveted sweet wines, including French Sauternes, Hungarian Tokay, and many of Germany’s most prized sweet Rieslings. The grapes in these intensely honeyed and luxurious wines have been raisinated by a fungus call botrytis, or Noble Rot, which concentrates the sugars and acids inside the ripe berries. The resulting wines have fantastic citrus and tropical aromas, tinged by floral and honey tones, and oddly refreshing high acidity. The best examples are exorbitantly expensive, but excellent options are easy to find in the $20-$25 range. With sweet, fruity desserts like crème brulée or raspberry cheesecake, the complex and tropical flavors of Sauternes are second to none.
Try: Broadbent Madeira Reserve + Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese frosting or Gingerbread men
Unlike botrytised wines crafted in the vineyard, Madeira is a dessert wine defined by winemaking tradition. From the Portuguese island of the same name, these wines are made in hot cellars, a practice that caramelizes the sugars in the wines as they literally cook in the Mediterranean heat. Known as Maderization, the process gives these wines fantastic nutty, caramel tones and renders them shelf stable forever. Famously used to toast the Declaration of Independence, Madeira wines are excellent with semi-sweet chocolate desserts or fruit and chocolate medleys like banana s’mores…or just s’mores.
Try: Antinori Vin Santo + Almond biscotti or Almond Joy Bars
In Tuscany, Vin Santo is another dark dessert wine characterized by the winemaking process. Here, white grapes are dried before pressing and then aged in small oak barrels. In the end, this yields wines with strong aromas of hazelnut and dried apricot, tinged with citrus and citrus zest. Vin Santo wines can be either very sweet or have just a touch of residual sugar, making it a fantastic option alongside less-sweet desserts like ginger cookies or simple dried fruit. Sweeter versions are fantastic with chocolate cannoli or pannetone.
Whether you’re already sipping the sweet stuff or hunting for a boozy dessert experiment, there’s a candied libation for every occasion. And in a pinch, they’ll even impress as chocolate syrup substitutes in adult ice cream sundaes, complete with cherries and rainbow sprinkles.