An easy but delicious finish to any holiday party is a course of chocolate paired with wine. It’s hard to pair chocolate and wine. Despite the fact a red wine may look like it belongs with a box of chocolates, the sweet and fatty flavors in the candy rarely complement a bottle of wine. That all changes when port comes into play.
The residual sweetness of port tends to balance better with chocolate than your average wine. The chocolate’s sugar subdues the sweetness in the port, showcasing flowers, fruit, and spice. Instead of giving you a sugar overload, the port will taste drier in comparison to the chocolate. You’ll find different types of port on the retail shelves this holiday season, including ruby and tawny. Ruby ports are made in a classic style and pair best with dark bittersweet chocolate. A tawny port is more blonde in color and pairs better with milk chocolate, nutty chocolates, or chocolates with a hint of spice.
Chocolate has expanded outside of the good old Hershey’s bar. While that’s still a choice for s’mores and Halloween, for holiday parties, go for something with more chocolate and cocoa butter, and less artificial ingredients. In choosing chocolate, look at the percentage of cacao. The higher the percentage, the lower percentage of sugar. Unsweetened, or bitter, chocolate is nearly 100 percent chocolate, and is usually used in baking. Dark chocolate has a minimum of 50 percent chocolate, and milk chocolate is between 30-40 percent cocoa. When looking for chocolate for eating, look for a minimum of ingredients from a reputable brand, such as Valrhona, E. Guittard, Ghirardelli or Dagoba. Avoid anything that includes oil as an ingredient, it’s making up for a lack of cocoa butter.
To pair chocolate and port, match dark with dark and light with light. A nice entry-level port is Taylor-Fladgate Fine Ruby Porto, non-vintage, that runs around $14.99. Try it with Lindt 70 percent Cacao dark chocolate bar (3.99, Kroger’s). Jonesy is a nice non-vintage tawny from Trevor Jones in Australia that you can find for around $10.99. Try this with Valrhona’s 39 percent Milk Chocolate Bar (at Sur La Table, Rookwood Commons) or or Dagoba’s Chai chocolate (3.99, Kroger), which has a hint of caramelized ginger and cinnamon. You can also pair chocolate desserts and port: Ruby ports pair very well with chocolate lava cake or rich chocolate brownies, and tawny ports pair with chocolate gelato, available from Madisono’s (multiple locations, including Madison’s at Findley Market, Dilly Deli in Mariemont, The Party Source and Jungle Jim’s).
Photo: Courtesy of The Seattle Times