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Dessert wine

Red, white or dessert wines pair well with a wide variety of chocolate.

Greg Horton March 16th, 2011

Dessert can sometimes be the death knell for wine at dinner, especially for fans of dry red and white wines. However, it need not be, especially if dessert includes chocolate.

Since chocolate covers a broad spectrum of tastes, including bitter, sweet, creamy and rich, pairing it with wine for dessert is easier than you might suspect.

The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro, 6418 N. Western, recently hosted a wine and chocolate pairing to introduce the new spring wine list. In the course of the evening, co-owner LaVeryl Lower offered guests eight chocolate creations made in-house by chef Rolyn Soberanis and sous chef Robert Drennan. They prepared white chocolate truffles to pair with the white wines and dark chocolate for the reds.

The wine list included an array of varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, a white Rhone blend, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. In nearly every case, the wine worked well with at least one of the confections.

What was most surprising was how well the white wines paired with dessert. Typically, according to Harvey Steiman, author of “Essentials of Wine” and editor at large for Wine Spectator magazine, wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert to ensure it doesn’t have the unhappy effect of enhancing the wine’s alcohol content.

above Chocolate can pair well with wine, such as these at The Metro.

However, Tangent Sauvignon Blanc can’t be called sweet by any definition. In fact, it’s a bright, crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, yet it worked well with both ginger-lime white chocolate and orange-fennel white chocolate with fennel sea salt.

Noticeably sweeter is the Bollig Lehnert Riesling Kabinett from Germany. It paired beautifully with curry-coconut white chocolate with ground pistachio. The Bollig has a big, petrol-heavy front palate followed by spiced fruit, honey and a lingering finish.

Drennan said they worked to create good complementary flavors, but occasionally went for some “abstractness” based on Lower’s input about the wines.

“For example, I’m sure some people would think curry, coconut, pistachio, white chocolate and white wine don’t work,” Drennan said, “but the combination worked well.”

Pairing wine and chocolate doesn’t really require a chef’s expertise, nor does it require exotic ingredients, but if you have them, by all means, use them. A selection of quality chocolates from a grocery store or chocolatier like Godiva will work for a small pairing party or for a light dessert.

I’m sure some people would think curry, coconut, pistachio, white chocolate and white wine don’t work.

—Rob Drennan

Steiman gives us rules to make it a bit easier. In the Wine Spectator article “The Chocolate Equation,” Steiman told writer Dana Nigro that “youthful, fruity wine with plenty of berry, cherry or currant flavors” will work well for people who don’t want a sweet or fortified wine. He does caution that reds have to be “headier” than the chocolate that will be served. Steiman recommends a Zinfandel or young Syrah. Lower had both at The Metro, including Turley Juvenile Zinfandel.

Available by the glass at The Metro and on the shelf at Spirit Shop, 1117 Garver in Norman, the Turley is an affordable wine from one of the world’s premier Zinfandel makers. Rich with flavors of creamy chocolate, red berry and spice, it paired well with a dark chocolate truffle with cherry and pink peppercorn.

One of the keys to a successful pairing is to ensure the flavors are complementary, not contrasting. Complex wines help this process because they contain layers of flavor.

At The Metro, the Eberle Cotes-du-Robles Blanc, a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, had enough versatility to pair with lavender white chocolate, a notoriously difficult flavor to pair.

Equally versatile was Leviathan, the red blend from Andy Erickson and Annie Favia, one of Napa’s most successful winemaking teams. Available by the glass at The Metro and on the shelf at The Grape Wine & Spirit, 13325 N. MacArthur, the blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc has layers of fruit, earth, spice, tobacco and cedar. It paired well with all of the dark chocolates.

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