|Photo: Kev-Shine (CCL)|
Traditionally speaking, wine and chocolate are not made for each other. At all. Creamy, cloying chocolate washed down with tannic, acidic wine? Erm, can you not?
However, in recent years wine pros and chocoholics alike have been feverishly experimenting (it's a tough job), and many successful wine and chocolate pairings have been found. Hooray! The curse is over.
I wrote about wine and chocolate matching last year following a tasting, and since then I've been constantly looking out for new combinations to try.
Well, GOOD NEWS! Now there are even more ways to get a fix of two of life's greatest pleasures. Just in time for Valentine's Day aka WINE AND CHOCOLATE DAY, here's a list of the best chocolate and wine adventures you can have:
Rosso Nobile al Cioccolata, £5.99 at Tesco
So, this is basically a German red wine laced with real chocolate. GUYS, STAY WITH ME.
I know, to most wine geeks this sounds like a bit of a crime. I thought so too when I first heard about it - the slight wine snob in me thought that a wine with stuff added to it was going to be sickly and poor quality.
But I was offered a bottle, and agreed, opening it with trepidation whilst in the company of a few wine-y friends.
The result was surprising. The first thing we noticed was a really creamy, chocolatey aroma mingling with hints of ripe raspberry and cherry - and it wasn't sickly at all.
When it came to tasting Rosso Nobile, it was very light (it's only 10%), with more berry and vanilla-y, chocolatey flavours and a lot less sweetness than you'd expect. The result is a very sippable drink that was - frankly - pleasant to drink and a refreshing dessert alternative after our meal. Take that, snobs.
No, it won't take the place of regular wine, (newsflash - it's not trying to) but it's a much lighter chocolate liqueur alternative and really lovely to sip with milk chocolate - so I can imagine it being a good match for a light, creamy chocolate dessert too. It's also delicious in coffee and lightly warmed and poured over ice cream.
Chocolates for Wine gift box, £9.99 at Qwerkity
This adorable little wooden box of twelve chocolates is hand-made in Germany, and comes with a leaflet explaining what each of the six types of chocolate tastes like, and what would be an ideal wine match.
If I'm being totally honest, I think the leaflet itself needs a little work for a UK audience (there are a couple of small spelling errors and mis-translations) but the information is genuinely useful and interesting, and pitched so that it can be appreciated by both novices and geeks.
Each of the chocolates does have its own individual style and taste with varied cocoa solids (it was a chocolate tasting as well as a wine matching lesson!) and did respond differently to its recommended wine styles. You really do learn - and have quite a bit of fun doing so...
Linton Park Cafe Cabernet, £8.72 from The Drink Shop
Weirdly, I mentioned this wine in Vinspire's FIRST EVER blog post back in March 2013, but it has remained a favourite to recommend to chocolate lovers.
It's aged in a type of oak that imparts coffee aromas, and this rich, roasted character and deep, dark berry flavours makes it ideal with dark chocolate.
The good news is it's a regular dry red wine (made in Stellenbosch in South Africa) so it's great to drink on its own or with hearty stews or venison - but it is a pleasure to sip whilst curled up on the sofa with some dark chocolate.
Lindt EXCELLENCE Chocolate and Wine Masterclass, £40, every third Thursday of the month at Vinopolis, London
Lindt have been big wine fans for a while now (they used to have a range of wines they actually collaborated with as chocolate matches on their US site) and these masterclasses are a fun evening of learning and scoffing.
Roasted sesame chocolate with Champagne? Sea salted milk chocolate with malbec? Yes please.
It was reported on Monday that Vinopolis is sadly closing down at the end of the year (boo-urns!) but these classes are still running for the next few months. Grab one while you can.
Rubis Chocolate Wine, £14.99 at Qwerkity
I first tried this about four years ago, and I was surprised by how tasty it is. Unlike the Rosso Nobile, this is a fortified wine (it's 15%) which has chocolate flavouring added rather than containing actual chocolate.
It's fuller-bodied and more akin to dark chocolate rather than the creamy milk chocolate of the Rosso Nobile, meaning it suits a different palate entirely, but is still a lovely, chocolatey treat to sip instead of a liqueur after dinner.
It's at its best over ice - and small amounts can also pep up venison or lamb dishes in the same way that people add PX sherry.
Brix chocolate for wine, £7.99 per 227g bar at Wine Gift Centre
Brix chocolates are specifically made to match certain wine styles which makes it super fun to have around the house for evening nibbling and showing off to guests after dinner.
There's four different types of chocolate - made to match both wines and Champagne - and they also do fun little tasting party gift sets and variety boxes. I WANT.
So there you have it - chocolate and wine opportunities galore - and all in time for your Valentine on 14th February....