Pairing wine with chocolate is more an art than a science. Chocolate -- like tomatoes, artichokes and salads with vinaigrette dressings -- always has been considered a tricky partner for wine. It helps to separate the chocolate you are pairing into two forms: chocolate as a flavor ingredient in a dessert or chocolate alone or in candy.
Chocolate in a dessert such as cake, mousse, pot de creme, tart, pie, cookie or such is part of a complex arrangement of ingredients and is far easier to pair with wine. The primary rule here is that the wine should be sweeter than the dish it accompanies. Some appropriate choices are:
Sandeman's Fine Tawny Port, Portugal
PLCB #6507, $14.99
Florio Fine Marsala, Italy
PLCB #4635, $11.99
Rosa Regale Sparkling Red, Italy
PLCB #6239, $21.99
Alana Tokaj Tokaji Furmint 2006, Hungary
PLCB #10762, $34.99 (500 ml)
Blandys Malmsey Madeira 5 Year, Portugal
PLCB #29744, $23.99
Quady Essensia Orange Muscat 2008, California
PLCB #13676, $18.99 (750 ml)
Any good Beerenauslese from Germany that you can find in your store or any Beaumes de Venise also would make good partners. I suggest that you spend some time in the dessert wine section of your favorite store and experiment with a few wines they stock.
Keep in mind that sweet wines derive their sugar from different treatments.
Four are from dehydration methods. The first is Botrytis, or noble rot. This is a fungus which punctures the skin allowing water to escape, thus concentrating the sugars found in the grape. Examples of this method are Sauternes in Bordeaux, and Tokaji in Hungary,.
The second is late harvest where the grapes are left on the vine until well past normal harvest time, allowing them to shrivel and become raisin-like. The grape sugars are again concentrated. My wine store (East Liberty) has several late-harvest wines including:
Cline Late Harvest Mourvedre 2009, California
PLCB #36988, $24.99 (500 ml)
Olivares Monastrell Dolce 2008, Spain
PLCB #38194, $32.99 (500 ml)
The third method is eiswein -- ice wine -- which is an extreme late harvest, picking the grapes in December or January in temperatures below 32 degrees. Water inside the grape is trapped as ice so again the sugars are concentrated.
The fourth dehydration method involves harvesting the grapes normally but then drying them on straw mats for four or more months until they are shriveled raisins. They are then pressed and fermented.
Cesari Recioto Della Valpolicella 2003, Italy
PLCB #24110, $32.99 (500 ml)
The last method for producing sweet wine is to fortify the wine with grape brandy during fermentation before all the sugar in the grapes is converted into alcohol. By adding the brandy, the yeasts responsible for the fermentation are killed and a higher portion of the sugars remain. They also have a higher alcohol content, normally between 17 and 22 percent. This is the method used to make port, madeira and sherry. . You might try:
Rasteau Vin Doux Natural, Southern France
PLCB #29528, $15.99
Made from 100-percent grenache grapes from vines that are 50 to 80 years old.
Dios Baco Pedro Jimenez Sherry, Spain
PLCB #29863, $15.99
Straight chocolate candy is in another category with heavy and intense flavors. My own feeling is that neither the wine nor the chocolate gains much from the presence of the other and I choose to enjoy them separately. However, if you wish to combine them, then you would be safest pairing pure chocolate with a fortified wine. Most sweet wines without the added alcohol content will fade away in the presence of a rich dark or bittersweet bar of chocolate.
The alternative is to combine the wine and chocolate in the same bottle. I don't recommend ChocoVine, a milk, sugar, chocolate and wine combo that is more like wine-flavored cream liqueur, but there's a new wine product made from red grapes such as Pinot Noir, Malbec and Syrah that have been doctored with cocoa and, in some cases, red berries. For Valentine's day giving, try:
Chocolate Rouge Rich Chocolate, California
PLCB #5991, $9.99
Chocolate Shop Strawberry Chocolate, California
PLCB #6206, $12.99
Chocolate Shop Red, California
PLCB #4056, $12.99
Elizabeth Downer: firstname.lastname@example.org.