Wine column: Choose sweet or sparkling to pair wine with Valentine's Day chocolate

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It is a common misperception that wine and chocolate can be paired, but the duo rarely work together because chocolate is too sweet for a dry wine. The exception would be when pairing with a style of wine that is as sweet or sweeter than the chocolate. If you’re thinking of picking up some quality chocolates (we have amazing chocolatiers in Edmonton) for Valentine’s Day here are some tips for a perfect pairing.

Milk chocolate pairs well with white Port, Pineau des Charentes, fortified and late harvest wines but my choice is for a lighter and fresher style — a semi-sweet to sweet and fizzy (low bubble pressure) wine with lower alcohol such as Moscato d’Asti from northern Italy and France’s Clairette de Die Tradition.

High quality examples of Moscato d’Asti are amazingly elegant and aromatic, lightly-sweet, fizzy (foamy), fresh, floral and fruity, and will have a pleasant musky note typical of the Muscato Bianco grape. It’s also a great choice for soft cheese, trifle, fruit salads and delicate pastries.

Clairette de Die Méthode Ancestrale wines are another great pairing option that are less sweet than Moscato d’Asti, making them ideal for lighter chocolate desserts — especially if fruit and pastry are involved. The wines from this historic wine-growing region in France use Muscat Blanc and Clairette. These sparkling wines offer complex aromas and flavours from Méthode Dioise Ancestrale, a traditional method where the bubbles are formed in the bottle — without using any added sugars (the sweetness comes from the grapes alone).

Dark chocolate pairs well with wines that are fuller bodied, along with more concentrated and intense flavours — a fortified wine such as Port and Banyuls — but I prefer a red, sparkling wine with some residual sugar. The bubbles and lighter weight on the palate offer a freshness, providing a fun contrast to the richness of the dark chocolate (and much lower in alcohol).

My favourite frizzante (lightly sparkling) wines to pairing with dark chocolate are Brachetto D’Acqui and Xyris, both Italian wines, with foaming pale pink bubbles in the glass.

If you are not into sweet, you can never go wrong with a bottle of sparkling wine. For the drier styles of bubbly — labelled as brut and extra-brut — try Cava, Cremant and Champagne (my weakness, and I haven’t met a Champagne I didn’t get along with). These are best paired with a fabulous bouquet of flowers (I highly recommend Maven & Grace, Zocalo and Laurels) or even better, order a Valentine’s Day Bacon Bouquet from my friends at Kitchen By Brad at kitchenbybrad.ca. Other pairing options include a bowl of popcorn and/or some savoury seafood appetizers.

If you haven’t made plans for Saturday, Feb. 9 check out the great charity event For the Love of Wine, which raises funds in support of Kids Kottage, Edmonton’s only 24-hour crisis nursery helping both children and families. There will be around 100 wines to sample, along with Eau Claire’s cocktails and Batch #2 of their whisky. Great event, great cause, and you can gather more information and buy your tickets online at kidskottage.org.

Here are my Valentine’s Day recommendations:

Juanita Roos recommends a variety of wines appropriate for a Valentine’s Day pairing. Larry Wong / Postmedia

BOTTEGA ROSE GOLD 200ml $9

I love these little metallic rose gold bottles of a wine made using the Charmat method in Veneto, Italy. This brut rosé sparkling wine is made with Pinot Nero grapes, fruity and floral — all wrapped up in beautiful packaging.

BIUTIFUL CAVA BRUT NV  $17

Start the evening with this dry sparkling wine made using the traditional method from a Spanish winery in Requena. Biutiful is a blend of 80 per cent Macabeo and 20 per cent Chardonnay. A crisp and lively bubbly with flavours of lime zest, fresh cut herbs, ripe stone fruits, tangy grapefruit and a touch of floral and spice. Enjoy a glass on its own or with starters such as a prawn cocktail or a bowl of porcini popcorn, or most lightly spiced and salty foods.

MONGE AND GRANON CLAIRETTE DE DIE TRADITION $22

Two wine-growers’ families, Monge and Granon, have been farming these vineyards for four generations. Their expertise in this historic wine-making region dating back to Roman times produce unique and fabulous sparkling wines in the heart of the Rhone Valley. They are naturally sweet and fruity with no added sugar or yeasts expressing apple, peach, pear, elderflowers and honey notes. Recommended pairings include foie gras, frozen desserts, chocolate cake, or fruit tarts. Serve very chilled.

BROC CELLARS LOVE ROSÉ $30

The Love series from Broc cellars have Valentine-appropriate labels with floating hearts, and they are also delicious. This winery has a cult following for making wines made without any additives, using grapes grown organically without the use of any synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers in vineyards just east of Napa Valley.

The rosé is a blend of mostly Valdiguié with some Zinfandel and Trousseau that are fermented together in stainless steel tanks, producing a juicy rosé with flavours and aromas of watermelon and grapefruit.  A wonderful wine to enjoy alone or paired with a vast array of foods.

BROC CELLARS LOVE RED $30

The Love series red wine is composed of mostly Carignan and Valdiguié with some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon creating a juicy, fresh wine loaded with red berries that’s easy drinking, or as Erik from Juice Imports would say, crushable.

MICHELE CHIARLO NIVOLE MOSCATO D’ASTI 375ml $15

This lovely bottle of aromatic, sweet, fizzy wine offers orange, peach, apricot and fruit salad notes with a magical effervescence and freshness, ending with a delicate finish typical of Moscato d’Asti. Perfect with creamy desserts, fruit tarts and pies as well as lighter chocolate desserts. Serve very chilled.

MARIOTTI CAMPI XYRIS $26

My go-to wine for dark chocolates and brownies, or just as dessert itself. A deeply-coloured fizzy wine with pink foamy mousse on top made from a grape called Lacrima from Morro d’Alba in Italy. A slightly sweet bubbly that’s rich and loaded with ripe black cherries and plums wrapped in rose petals. Decadent and delicious.

Wine selections are available at select Alberta shops. Log onto liquorconnect.com to check availability and give them a call to verify.

Juanita Roos opened Color de Vino, a fine wine and spirits store, with her family in 2014. She has travelled to wine regions around the world and completed the prestigious WSET Diploma from London, England, the prerequisite for the Master of Wine program. Send your questions about wine to info@colordevino.ca.

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