I was searching for a nut mix recipe for the holidays and came across a “no recipe” recipe for chocolate bark (so easy it’s not really a recipe, but just a little bit of direction to get you going). I’ve always loved chocolate bark and had just seen an article on pairing wine with chocolate, and not just “a dark red wine with dark chocolate” kinda article but one with some variety. Then I started to think about cheese plates and the nut and dried fruit pairings you could do with each wine, and my imagination took off. So now I am putting together some “toss together” ideas for perfect wine and chocolate bark recipes.
Basics to start with
Typically you want your wine as sweet as your chocolate. Dark chocolates seem to be much more forgiving of this with big red wines. And Sparkling wines pull up the celebratory mood and that mood more than anything is very forgiving with pairings. Champagne goes with anything and if it doesn’t people are unlikely to notice. The bubbles will have them too happy to care.
Yes, yes, I know it’s not chocolate, it is cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids. But butter, is fat so you can see how you can pair this with Champagne or sparkling wines. Rieslings, or Gewürtraminer work also, as long as they lean to the sweet side. Try Muscats, a fruit forward Chardonnay, or a late harvest white wine.
Look to Ports and Sherrys and maybe a Pinot Noir. You can really go with most red wines as long as they are not too dry. Also a Sparkling Moscato works nice.
Well big reds love dark chocolate, think Merlot, Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah or Mourvedre. Or take it the dessert route with a Ruby or Tawny Port. The lighter the chocolate the sweeter the wine should be, so 60% dark chocolates with Ports, 70% with the darker reds.
Now when you start to toss on those toppings…
The first thing that came to mind for me was bacon. I know….but dark chocolate and bacon with a Syrah? Yum. Maybe some dried cranberries to pull out the fruit in the wine. Are you feelin’ me here?
Nuts and dried fruits
Add some dried apricots and orange zest to a white chocolate and pair with a Tokaji or a late harvest white wine.
Add almonds or chestnuts to dark chocolate to pair with a Merlot
Dried cherries and walnuts to milk chocolate for a Pinot Noir.
Hazelnuts to white chocolate to pair with a toasty sparkling wine.
Caramel with Madeira…
Herbs & other flavors
And then don’t forget the herbs and other flavors.
Lavender in a white or milk chocolate with a sweet Riesling.
Or take it spicy with some chili flakes or chili powder.
Coffee, or espresso powder with a rich Pinot Noir or Shiraz.
Salty potato chips in white chocolate with sparkling wine.
Rosemary and salt with a dark chocolate and a Carignan, Zin or Shiraz.
Try a little coriander in dark chocolate with a Mourvedre.
Or a little cumin in a dark chocolate with a Cabernet or Bordeaux blend.
Finishing salts are great and often are infused…I have a Stumptown coffee infused salt that I love!
Wines to Avoid
Typically you want to avoid:
white wines as they are high in acid
cold wines that will change the texture of the chocolate in your mouth (you want it to melt right?)
and wines that are high in tannins (so check those big reds before diving in)
Of course in the end it all depends on personal taste. So make a mix and let people taste, or just put out the chocolate and let them pair with the extras on their own! I suggest having a nice sparkling wine on the side as a palate cleanser for those who make unfortunate pairings and need to get the taste out of their mouth!
How to put it together?
I love that this part is so easy.
Throw it in a double boiler over low (or like me just a pot of simmering water with a glass bowl on top) and stir constantly until it melts.
Toss it in the fridge (okay, this might be the toughest part at this time of the year, finding room in the fridge for a sheet pan).
Once it has set, break it up and pair!
We settled on two pairings. We had a bottle of 2012 Reserve Syrah from Larner Vineyards in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA. The Tasting notes for this wine included: “Black fruit, cedar, licorice, smoked meat and leather with silky tannins.” This Larner Syrah is the 4 best barrels of Syrah from 2012. It spends 36 months on 50% New French Oak. There were only 97 cases of this wine produced.
We opted to do a dark chocolate bark with dried cranberries, bacon, rosemary and a coffee infused finishing salt.
And to go with dessert, a limited release 2013 late harvest Viognier from Cold Heaven Cellars (again Santa Barbara).
Cold Heaven only produces a late harvest Viognier in years when the conditions are just right. 200 cases of this wine were produced. It was 50% barrel aged for 4 months in 2 year old French Hermitage barrels.
For this wine we went with a white chocolate bark with dried apricot, orange zest and pistachios.
Explore! Pick your favorite wines then choose complimenting or contrasting flavors. An easy go to, is to find the tasting notes for the wine and choose ingredients from that list! Have fun and let us know what amazing combinations for pairings that you come up with!