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With Easter looming, stashes of chocolate accumulate in many households, which has me thinking about chocolate and wine matching.
Chocolate isn’t always an easy pairing: it completely coats the palate, which can make dry wines seem flat or dull, has sweetness that can swamp the fruit, and, in the case of high cocoa chocolate, can have a marked bittersweet note which can fight with any tannins and leave a bitter edge. However, all is not lost.
Conventional wisdom suggests wines of similar or greater sweetness, though with the caveat that dessert rieslings or sauternes etc, generally don’t work. A surprising contradiction to the sweetness rule would be white chocolate where a brightly, fruit-driven pinot noir or gamay works rather well.
Milk chocolate is where these sweeter (sometimes fortified) wines can excel. Late harvest or dessert reds, such as the Clearview Sea Red from Hawke’s Bay, work beautifully. The lightly sweet Brown Brothers Dolcetto Syrah is also worth a run
. Vin Doux Naturel fortified wines from France (made in the style of a port) are hard to find here, but a Maury, Banyuls or Rasteau VDN can work brilliantly, as do the fruit-driven Ruby Port styles from Portugal. Dows Ruby Port is widely available.
Liqueur Muscats from Australia are a bit like liquidised raisins in a bottle, so can also be a good pairing. A surprising option is a sparkling shiraz, such as Black Chook from Australia. The bubbles cleanse, while the sweet shiraz fruit does the rest.
Dark chocolate has a couple of willing partners in luscious tawny ports and the super rich P.X (Pedro Ximenez) dessert sherries. In the latter, try Valdespino El Candado.
Continuing the Easter and hot cross bun theme, dessert wines and Sauternes are coming into their own: here are three superb temptations.
2016 Pegasus Bay Encore Noble Riesling
Price: $40 375ml
Delightful nose of marmalade, musky botrytis, apple and spice that doesn’t stray into over-sweetness. Richly textural palate, a super-ripe tropical fruit note with bush honey and beeswax snapped into line by crisp acidity. The freshness here is an utter delight, a lip-smacking edge to the gorgeously long close creates a superb sense of balance.
2014 Pegasus Bay Finale Noble Barrique Matured Sauvignon Blanc
Price: $40 375ml
The nose exudes richness with notes of barley sugar and a chopped sage/pineapple sage herbal note. Concentration to the fore here, oily, rich and mouth-filling with powerfully intense flavours of spices and marmalade that linger endlessly. A zesty acid burst brings real life and energy to the long and intense finish. Compelling stuff.
2016 Palliser Estate Noble Riesling
Price: $30 375ml
Attractively appealing nose of spice, musk and toffee apple. Super-rich palate with notes of burnt orange, citrus oil, caramel toffee and spiced marmalade. Noticeable sweetness here yet the lovely depth of flavours find neat balance. The complexity on the palate draws you back again and again, with the long sumptuous finish totally beguiling.