Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
What chocolates go with Lodi’s dry red wines?
On the cusp of Lodi Wine Country’s upcoming Wine & Chocolate Weekend (this weekend, February 11-12, 2012), it behooves us to talk about a favorite subject: the ideal wines for drinking with chocolates.
One the best and easiest wine matches in the world is sweet red wine – fortified sweet reds like Port and late harvest style Zinfandels – with chocolates. The commonality of sweetness is why this pairing is a classic; but another reason is because, in their raw form, both red wines and chocolates have bitter elements at their core:
- Red wines, which are usually made dry, have bitterness from the tannin derived from skins, seeds and stems of grapes extracted during the fermentation process.
- Chocolate starts off as raw, bitter cocoa derived from the cacao seed, and must be combined with ingredients like sugar, cocoa butter or milk to be made into the addictive end-product familiar to all of us.
Since sweet red wines usually consist of a balance of tannin, aromatic fruit components, discernible residual sugar and fairly high amounts of alcohol (commonly between 16% and 20%), they taste delicious with the bittersweet sensations of chocolate.
But does chocolate necessarily require sweet red wines to make a good match? More and more wine lovers have been discovering that dry red wines can also be delicious, providing these basic factors:
- When the chocolate matched with a dry red wine is made with the addition of zero or little sugar, plus zero to almost minimal amounts of the usual “fillers” (like milk, butter or eggs) to dark chocolate bases.
- When the chocolate also contains the bitter shavings of raw, unsweetened chocolate.
- When chocolate is flavored with wine-friendly, scented ingredients, like fruits, any number of spices or other flavorings, like coffee or liqueurs.
The best dry red wine matches are hand rolled or truffle molded chocolates; which you can buy, but are also surprisingly easy to make yourselves. Three interesting recipes found online:
- Dark chocolate red wine truffles from food.com, made with a half-cup of Cabernet Sauvignon; which in fact, would taste delicious with the type of soft tannin yet sturdy, sweetly oaked Lodi grown Cabernet Sauvignon made by Michael-David Winery (under their Earthquake and Rapture labels), Mettler Family Vineyards, DFV Wine’s 337, cabernet based blends such as Grands Amis’ Première Passion, Omega’s Mystico, and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s Section 29 Red.
- Florence Fabricant’s chocolate-Port truffles, put out by nytimes.com; which, despite the sweet Ruby Port in the recipe, uses enough unsweetened cocoa to eat with unabashedly fruity style of dry red wines, such as the Lodi’s easier drinking Zinfandels like 7 Deadly Zins, Gnarly Head, Jessie’s Grove’s Earth, Zin & Fire, Tierra Divina Vineyards’ !ZaZin, House of Zin, Deep Purple, or Stellina’s Amore.
- Joan Coukos’ bittersweet chocolate truffles rolled in spices available through foodandwine.com., spiked with aromatic spices like cardamom, cloves, allspice chipotle and Chinese five-spice – fantastic foils for pungent Syrah based reds like that of Klinker Brick Winery, Fusion Red by Borra Vineyards or 6th Sense by Michael-David, not to mention spicy Petite Sirah infused blends such as McCay Cellars’ Paisley, Michael-David’s Petite Petit.
The three aforementioned recipes can also be used to blend in ingredients that turn you on, if you’re willing to feel the force and let your imagination guide you. It’s all the matter of matching flavor sensations. Besides having spicy components, for instance, Syrah based reds are commonly violet scented, and so violet infused chocolates (re this recipe for violet crunch truffles) make perfectly delicious sense with red wines made from Syrah.
With that in mind, some further thoughts on making your perfect red wine with chocolate matches:
- Raspberry or framboise (i.e. raspberry liqueur like Chambord) laced truffles with silky, raspberryish Cabernet Franc based reds like those of Ironstone Vineyards, Michael-David’s Inkblot, or Cantara Cellars.
- Strawberry, cherry or cherry liqueur infused truffles with “red fruit bomb” red wines such as the Carignanes by Van Ruiten Family, Jessie’s Grove, and Tierra Divina Vineyards’ REDS; although Peltier Station’s soft, fruity Hybrid Pinot Noir, the broader, black cherry toned Vicarmont Merlot, or the Garnacha bottlings by Bokisch Vineyards, Riaza Wines, or d’Art Wines might also make interesting combination.
- Blueberry truffles with somewhat softer scaled, fruit forward styles of Petite Sirah such as those of Grands Amis’ Catherine’s Vineyard, Maggio Family Vineyards, Viñedos Aurora, Van Ruiten Family, or Peirano Estate.
- Hazelnut (i.e. filbert), hazelnut liqueur (like Frangelico), or else Nutella infused chocolates with sleek, slender, refined Sangiovese based reds such as those of Sorelle Winery, or Jeremy Wine Company.
- Espresso or dark roast coffee infused truffles with smoky oaked yet lush Zinfandels like those of LangeTwins, m2’s Soucie Vineyard, Macchia’s Voluptuous, Maley Brothers, Mettler Family’s Epicenter, or Michael-David’s Earthquake.
- Mocha flavored chocolate with tobacco-smoky, earthy, berryish Tempranillo based reds such as those of Bokisch, Riaza, Dancing Fox Winery, Eric Ross Winery, Odisea’s The Temp, or Viñedos Aurora’s Síntesis.
Enjoy your Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend!