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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Kim Karalovich

Posted on: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Uncork a sweetheart of a pairing

 • New year, new cookie

Traditions of the heart that many cannot resist on Valentine's Day are chocolates, wine, bubbles and strawberries. Whether you prefer red or white, still or bubbly, dry or sweet, within all categories there are wines that seem to pair well with chocolate.

Some think that chocolate goes well with dry red wine, while others disagree. Some believe that strawberries and champagne pair well, while others disagree. The disparity is due to the subjectivity of taste. As they say, to each their own. The only thing that matters is what you personally like.

In honor of Valentine's Day, here are some chocolate and wine suggestions.

I think the most enjoyable wines with chocolate are off-dry (very fruity, but not sweet) red wines. Fruity wines such as shiraz from Australia or zinfandel from California are good choices.

• The Layer Cake Shiraz 2008, $13.99, has lots of sweet blueberry and blackberry, bing cherry flavors with sweet spice and licorice.

• Layer Cake's big bolder brother is Barossa Jack 2008, $26. It's a little richer on the palate with more complex layers of dark sweet fruits, baking spice, a hint of tobacco, with a chocolate-covered cherry finish.

• A less intense fruity-style red is Candor Zinfandel , $17.99, from Paso Robles. It has lots of raspberry, red cherry with sweet vanilla spice and a hint of pepper.

A classic pairing with chocolate is port. You can choose a ruby port that is intensely laced with sweet black and red fruits or a tawny port that has delicious flavors of caramel, butterscotch and a tasty nuttiness. For me, ports and dessert wines partner beautifully with chocolate.

With any pairing, romantic or otherwise, it is all about bringing out the best in each other, and that's what chocolate and strawberries do for one another. Strawberries and chocolate are great partners because the acidity and fruitiness of the strawberry matches well with the sweetness and creaminess of the chocolate.

I love off-dry champagnes and sparkling wines with my strawberries and chocolate. A recent discovery is Vin du Bugey-Cerdon Patrick Bottex's "La Cueille" Rose, $23. Yeah, it is a mouthful to say but light and zesty on the palate. It is an unusual nonvintage sparkling red wine from France, a blend of 80 percent gamay with 20 percent poulsard. It's slightly sweet with a lovely taste of wild strawberries and only 8 percent alcohol. If I'm not mistaken, this wine is aiming to be our best-seller for Valentine's Day.

When drinking champagne with strawberries, make sure the bottle is a demi-sec champagne. Demi-sec has a little more sweetness than a brut and therefore will bring out the sweetness of the strawberries better than a dry brut.

Since we are talking about strawberries and chocolate with wine, I would be remiss if I did not mention a banyuls, a delicious red dessert wine from France. Les Clos de Paulilles, $26, is a delicious example. This wine will show you the perfect balance between acid and fruit, just like strawberries and chocolate.

If you care to explore the flavor combination between chocolate and wine, join us at The Wine Stop from 5 to 8 p.m. this Friday for a complimentary tasting. Also, we have large hand-dipped, long-stemmed chocolate-covered strawberries available Friday through Sunday. Call to reserve some: 946-3707.

Kim Karalovich is a partner in The Wine Stop wine shop in Honolulu.