Tag Archives: pairing

The Red Wine & Chocolate Debate

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About ten years ago, when I first started doing Wine Tastings with The Traveling Vineyard, I learned that red wine and chocolate paired well together. I am not really sure where I learned that. I took an online Wine Spectator class where a bunch of us met weekly to go over the lesson and taste the wines together. Did I discover it there? At our first Annual Harvest Convention, I attended a session on food and wine pairing with a gentleman from the Culinary Institute of Arts. Did I taste it there? Or was it just something I overheard from other consultants? I truly can’t remember.

But over the past year, I’ve read articles {like this one} by wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts across the globe who state that pairing red wine and chocolate is just plain WRONG! {For the record, my husband agrees, swearing that chocolate should only be paired with Port. But this is not because he’s a connoisseur; it’s just his personal preference.}

And you may be scratching your head asking yourself the same question, especially after my post about dessert wines, stressing how a wine should always be sweeter than the dessert itself.

I have used dark chocolate at Wine Tastings to illustrate food and wine pairing and to convert people from whites to reds. It works. I still have guests who swear by this pairing. I must admit that it has been a while since I’ve had the two together myself. But as a wine enthusiast, maybe my palate has not evolved to that of a connoisseur.

In any case, I have a couple of points to make and tweak about this pairing.

In my opinion, not all types of chocolate go with red wine.

When I’ve suggested that hosts serve dark chocolate and recommend just picking up an easy package of Dove Promises, some decide to go all out instead. They get all sorts of flavors with white chocolate, caramel, mint, chili pepper – you name it. Most of these don’t go with red wine. You are going to taint my poor wines that I’m bringing with mint! While these flavors might be fun to try with specific wines with a more experienced wine drinking group, it’s not the best option when I am trying to teach and showcase new wines, possibly to new wine drinkers. Furthermore, some hosts have even just bought milk chocolate because they don’t like dark chocolate. But both the red wine and dark chocolate tend to smooth each other out. So dark chocolate is the way to go, or at least the place to start.

Dark chocolate doesn’t go with all red wine.

At my tastings, I save a specific wine to be paired with the dark chocolate. This is because, I don’t believe it works with all wines. I feel like it works best with the more fruit-forward of wines from the New World. Earthy Old World (aka European) wines are best served with dinner. Bigger, bolder, fruit-forward wines from California and Australia seem to be the best candidates for chocolate pairing. I’m talking Cabernets, Syrahs, and Zins. Some New World blends work, too. This is a generalization; however, not a rule to live by. Not all California Cabs have the same style and characteristics. Therefore, not all of them will work.

Pair dark chocolate with reds that have chocolate “notes” when you smell and taste the wine.

Just as you’d pair chicken or fish marinated in lemon and herbs with a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrusy notes, try chocolate with a red that has the aromas or flavors of chocolate. Not sure which wines showcase that? Tasting and describing wines takes practice. Remember the Importance of Company? Otherwise, if the bottle has a description, look for chocolate words like “mocha”. But remember, taste is subjective, so not everyone will agree on those notes. Furthermore, labels may describe wines more for marketing purposes than what the wine actually smells or tastes like.

At one time, the Traveling Vineyard carried a bold smoky Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. It had chocolate and raspberry notes, but was a very heavy wine that usually only big red wine drinkers at my tastings enjoyed. That was until I started pairing it with these Raspberry Chocolate Bars, a recipe that I believe was shared by my friend and fellow Wine Consultant, Deb. I always have my guests taste the wine before trying a food and then after. Many white and sweet wine drinkers were surprised how much they loved this red after trying these decandent bars!

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Quick & Easy Raspberry Chocolate Bars

*Warning: This is not a healthy recipe by any means. Make it for a crowd, eat one and send the rest home with someone else.

  • 1. 5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 10 oz raspberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the first three ingredients with a spoon or on medium until all crumbly. Press the mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. In a saucepan, mix together next three ingredients. Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Let cool ten minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the first mixture in the pan and then carefully spread the raspberry mixture over that. Bake until set (about 20 minutes). Then let cool for 30 minutes. Chill for one hour. Cut into 48 bars.

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And lastly, there is a general rule of thumb that goes for any wine pairing:

Pair any wine with any food as long as you like them together!

All that matters is that you like the wine with whatever you are eating. I swear by the fact that grapes don’t go with wine, but if you like them together, by all means, pair them!

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are singled or coupled, pick up a bottle of New World red wine and some dark chocolate to do a little experimenting yourself. It’s more important that you be the judge.

What side do you take on the chocolate and red wine debate and why?

Cheers~
Carrie

This valentines’ day…

Medal-Winning Wines

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With the Olympics in full swing, I thought it only appropriate to introduce to you one of The Traveling Vineyard‘s Medal-Winning Wines for this Wine Wednesday! This post will include:

  • Tasting Notes on the wine.
  • My personal thoughts on the wine.
  • Food Pairings for the wine.
  • A fun recipe to try out with the wine.

2003 Vina Alamosa, Premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Cachapoal Valley, Chile

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Tasting Notes {from The Traveling Vineyard website}:

“Chile’s star grape shines a deep red in this full-bodied 100% Cabernet Sauvignon boasting aromas of cherries, saddle leather, and vanilla. Similar expressive earthy flavors explode in the mouth for a masculine, dynamic Cab with lots of personality.”

Silver, highly recommended, 2007 World Wine Championships
Price: $17.99 – CHI114

This wine is available for a limited time online at The Traveling Vineyard

 

My Personal Notes:

  • This wine has aged well and is ready for drinking!
  • This is a big, bold somewhat smoky Cabernet. It’s perfect as a gift for the wine connoisseur and an excellent value.
  • Seriously, do a search on 2003 cabs. They are expensive. This is a steal.
  • While there is no legal definition for the word reserve on a label of an American wine, it does have a meaning in Chile. So does Premium or Prestige. They represent different levels of quality, including a more careful process of hand-picking and aging requirements.
  • I met the winemaker at one of Annual Harvest Conventions. He’s actually a young Frenchman. His attempt to create this New World Cabernet in a Bordeaux style was a success. {He was easy on the eyes, too.} 😉

Recommended Food Pairings

  • Steak {Duh, it’s a Cab.} I prefer filet mignon, maybe even blue cheese crusted.
  • Smoky meats on the grill
  • Mushroom Risotto
  • Stronger cheeses
  • Dark chocolate
  • Better yet, Raspberry Dark Chocolates – they bring out the berry in this wine! I had a room of non-red drinkers fall in love with this. Give a bag of these chocolates a bottle of this wine as a gift and you’ll be much appreciated.
  • Or, you can make the dessert below… Bring a bottle of Vina Alamosa Cab and the Raspberry Chocolate Bars to a party for dessert. Decadent.

Warning:

I apologize in advance that this is not a healthy recipe. I’ve never made them myself for that reason. However, I have tasted them {my hosts love to make them!} and they are insanely good. If I ever did make them, it would have to be for a party so they wouldn’t sit in my house…

Quick & Easy Raspberry Chocolate Bars

*This is a recipe I obtained over the years from a fellow Wineaux… but I’m not sure exactly who provided it. If it’s you, please comment and give yourself a shout out!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c softened butter
  • 10 oz raspberries
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In bowl beat first three ingredients with a spoon or electric mixer on medium until all crumbly.
  3. Press in bottom of ungreased 13″ x 9″ pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. In saucepan, mix next three ingredients. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Cool 10 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked layer.
  7. Carefully spread raspberry mixture over chips and back until set (about 20 minutes).
  8. Cool 30 minutes.
  9. Chill one hour.
  10. Cut into 48 bars.

Enjoy. Cheers~
Carrie

Sparkling Beaujolais… & Giveaway Winners!

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I do get the majority of my wine from The Traveling Vineyard. These boutique wines can’t be found in stores and are often 25-50% less than wines of the same quality. I’ve been spoiled; so it’s hard to find something as good at the same price point. {Plus, I’m helpin’ out the little guy. Love those small vineyards!} However, when a local wine shop had a sale on Sparkling Beaujolais, I had to jump on it. I just love me some bubbly and I didn’t know that Sparkling Beaujolais even existed!

First, a little lesson…

Let’s pronounce it correctly: BO-ZHO-LAY. It surprises me every time I hear someone talking about  BOO-jolais. Really? You would pronounce beau that way? C’mon, you know that word. If you pronounce beau like beau and not boo, you’ve got it. Congratulations! You are no longer drinking BOO-jolais! {Sorry, just a little pet peeve of mine.}

Beaujolais is a light, fruity red wine produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is a made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais Nouveau is released every November and should generally be consumed within six months to a year. They are meant to be drunk young and are simple, easy-drinking wines.

However, there are Beaujolais wines produced with depth and character. These wines can even benefit from some time in the bottle. However, that is not what we’re talking about here. Not at all. I knew that the Sparkling Beaujolais I purchased would be a simple, easy-drinking, quaffing wine, but with that bit of bubbly that I love so much…

Mommessin Gamay Fizz – a sparkling Beaujolais

I expected the wine to be pink, even though it’s made with red grapes. I don’t know why I was expecting a rosé. Maybe because Gamay is a thin-skinned grape? Maybe because many true Champagnes are made partially with Pinot Noir, also a thin-skinned grape.

But look at that gorgeous red deep purple color!

Because I like my bubbly with spicy food {the effervescence cleanses the palate with each sip}, we paired it with a Cajun sausage pasta that I made. {Yes, I do cook, not just eat out!}

Sparkling Beaujolais with Cajun Sausage Pasta

But the pairing didn’t work. The wine tasted like bubbly grape juice.

I know. Wine is made from grapes.

However, wine does not taste like grape juice. You know, the sweet concord stuff? Yes, that is what this tasted like.

Disappointment.

I know that at only 9% alcohol, I shouldn’t have expected much {most wines are between 11 – 15%}.

Still, The Traveling Vineyard‘s Fissata is only 5.5% alcohol and tastes much better.

Fissata Italian “red” Bubbly {darker than a rosé, but not as red as the Sparkling Beaujolais}

While I prefer drier wines, the Fissata is sweet, so I don’t drink it very often. However, I’ve always appreciated it for what it is. And it does nottaste like sparkling grape juice. It’s got character. I’d much rather offer the Fissata to guests. {It doesn’t hurt that it has such a cute label, either!} Unfortunately, the Fissata is unavailable until this fall. Luckily, I still have a bottle on hand for any sweet wine-drinking friends who may pop in…

Furthermore, I tweeted about the Sparkling Beaujolais the night that I opened it. My cousin tweeted back: “French Lambrusco?” Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve had Lambrusco, that I can’t really compare. Actually, I think the Sparkling Beaujolais was much sweeter than Lambrusco, but also much more bubbly. Think Grape Juice + Sprite. Hey, I could make that myself. Better yet, I’d make Sangria instead.

What wine have you had that surprised you? (Good or Bad?)

And don’t worry. I didn’t forget! Lastly, the winners of the Wine Accessory Package Giveaway are:

Corkscrew, Set of 3 Acrylic Pourers, Stainless Steel Foil Cutter, and Crystal Cleansing Cloth

Mer and Kat!

Ladies, email me with your shipping information at Uncommon Wine at yahoo.  Thanks to all those who participated in the giveaway!

Cheers~
Carrie

Wines for Easter – A Simple List

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This Wine Wednesday: Best Wines to Accompany Easter Meals

Brunch (Egg Dishes)

  • Sparkling Wine
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonany (unoaked or lightly oaked)
  • Chenin Blanc

Ham

  • Riesling
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Chardonnay (lightly oaked)
  • Rosé (dry)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sparkling Wine

Turkey

  • Chardonnay (lightly or unoaked)
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Rosé (dry)
  • Beaujolais
  • Pinot Noir

Lamb

  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Rhone blends
  • Tempranillo
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet
  • Malbec
  • Zinfandel

While these are just suggestions, remember that it’s not really the meat with which you need to pair, but the sauce.

For example, a turkey breast with citrus and herbs would pair better with a Sauvignon Blanc; whereas a turkey with barbeque sauce would match much more nicely with a Shiraz or Zinfandel.

So here’s a tip:

If you are looking to pair a sauce with a wine, just go to your good friend The Google and type: sauce name + wine pairing. For example: barbecue sauce + wine pairing. This will yield numerous suggestions and even recipes that include the wine with which you are pairing!

And lastly, here are the best Traveling Vineyard Wines to pair with your Easter Meal. You can find them on my website:

Doesn't this label just scream, "SPRING!"?

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~The addition of the Marsanne grape balances this wine perfectly so that it doesn't have that harsh "over-oaked" flavor you find in some Chardonnays.

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This is the red wine for white wine lovers who *think* they don't like red. It's light & fruity. In addition, the unique caramel notes of this Pinot Noir will marry well with the popular brown sugar-glazed hams!

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This Rhone Valley red is a great blend of Grenache & Syrah that is quite versatile when it comes to almost all meats.

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A small percentage of Tempranillo was added to this Cabernet Sauvignon to mellow it out and give it character.

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Everyone's a FAN of this red wine! A nice peppery finish. If you are looking for White Zin, this is not for you!

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Bubbly and lightly sweet. Great for brunch or as dessert itself. Pairs well with fruit, fruity desserts, light cakes, cheesecake & cream puffs.

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Put all of these wines together and you’ve got the perfect six-pack for your Easter brunch, lunch, or dinner with a little something that will suit every taste. Or mix and match your favorites! They can be found online here. Please allow up to two weeks for delivery. Happy Easter!

What is your favorite wine pairing?