The Obligatory Valentine's Day Wine And Chocolate Post

Tuesday is Valentine's Day, a date on your calendar that can be met with a mix of emotions. Some people love it and go all out with the stereotypical package of flowers, candy, and dinner out at a nice restaurant. Others loathe it believing it is some made-up "Hallmark Holiday" or perhaps do not have someone to share the day with, and therefore it becomes a depressing day. Some will do their best to just make a Tuesday night extra special for a loved one.

The mix of emotions is understandable. After all St. Valentine, who the holiday is named for, is quite the complex character in history. He performed Catholic marriages against the wishes of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, so Valentine was subsequently beaten, stoned, and beheaded for his actions in the year 269. Oh, what fun! Also, over time St. Valentine became the patron saint of love, but also the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy, and plague. My is in the air!

And whether you view Valentine's Day as a time for love or the plague, chocolate will always be associated with this day. If you are a wine lover (which I assume you are, because you are here reading this post), then you will inevitably see the articles about "Best Wine & Chocolate Pairings This Valentine's Day" or something of that ilk smattered about the Interwebs. So let's get this out there immediately:

Unless you like sweet wines, stop pairing wine with chocolate.

This is not some hot take. It's fact. Chocolate has a complexity unlike any other food out there. Chocolate comes in flavors that are salty, milky, caramelized, bitter, fruit-filled, but the actual chocolate itself is a combination of sweet, savory and umami. This bold array of flavor needs wine with just as much character and has to be sweeter than the chocolate. The only wines that come to mind are Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage or aged Tawny Port wines. Other sweet wines like Late Harvest Riesling and Ice Wine are too delicate. Sauternes and Tokaj can be dominated by chocolate's character, despite bringing the requisite sweetness and richness levels.

Now, I am sure there is a group of you who might be saying something like, "Hey, Jerky Mr. Know-It-All...I have chocolate-covered strawberries and cherries for dessert. What do you say to that?"

Glad you asked! I have two suggestions, each of which will cost you around $20.

Look for Banfi's Rosa Regale, an Italian lightly sparkling low-alcohol wine bursting with cranberry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. This is a home run with chocolate-covered strawberries. 

Gerard Bertrand's Banyuls (a Port-like wine made in southern France from Grenache grapes) has a deep, dark black berry jam and cherry fruit character. This is what you want with your chocolate-covered cherries. 

Now with such a challenge posed to the range of sweet wines, why are the dry wines going to be even more difficult? The popular and romantic association has been the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon and dark chocolate pairing, but here's what happens: Cabernet's flavors go hollow when chocolate is introduced. All you are left with is a mouthful of acid, tannin, and alcohol. It's not a pleasing experience, and you want satisfaction on Valentine's Day. Pinot Noir also has a misguided presence here, too. Yes, it is fruity and silky-smooth when done well, but it is delicate and low in tannin; chocolate overwhelms any affordable Pinot Noir. 

My suggestion to you this Valentine's Day is to drink those dry red wines with your kick-ass dinner, or maybe enjoy the wine as an "intermezzo" after dinner and before dessert. Your senses will thank you.

New In Town: Wine, Food, Music & More

After a little time off, I'm back with lots to share. With each passing day, I learn more and more about how vibrant my shore town is in the winter time. I am also fortunate to have landed at a great shop that isn't all about itself, but rather cultivates partnerships throughout the community to put on some fantastic events. 

This is a loaded week, and the Nor'easter will be out of here by the time we get started. If you are in the area, come by and see me or any of our great people in town!

Photo of the Douro Valley from the IVDP web site

Photo of the Douro Valley from the IVDP web site

Wednesday, January 25th, 7:00pm: I'm teaching a Port 101 course at the Divine Wine Emporium classroom! Port wine's fruity and fiery character makes it a great way to end a meal or enjoy as a nightcap. You will learn everything to do with Port from vineyard to bottle, and we are tasting six different styles (including a Vintage Port). All of this for just $20 per student. You can call us at the store, 860-691-1053, to register and make payment.

Thursday, January 26th, 6:30pm: Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant Food & Wine Series - Spanish Edition. Last week's Italian session welcomed 62 guests! Can we top that number this week? Ken Turcotte, Owner of Divine Wine Emporium, and Olivia Formica, Head Chef of Flanders Fish, will present four small plates and five wines for just $35 per person. Call Divine Wine to make your reservation. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about these evenings, and we can't wait to bring it to you again on Thursday. Can't make it? No week's final session will be a French theme.

Friday, January 27th, 7:00pm: Chris Leigh, Director of the Mystic Blues Festival and Owner of the String Theory School of East Lyme, joins us for a concert in the classroom! He will be joined by another unbelievable local musician, Josi Davis, who has performed for us several times in the past. $10 payable at the door, all proceeds will go toward this summer's Mystic Blues Festival! Call the store to make your reservation!

Friday, January 27th-Sunday January 29th: Mohegan Sun Wine Fest. It's a huge show; I have never been, but possibly going on Sunday. Details are included right here for you!