Wine and Chocolate - A Fine Pair

Our wine sommelier shares tips on how to enjoy two of life’s greatest pleasures.

February and love go together like wine and chocolate. Or do they? Professional sommelier Sherry Perra says it is possible. However, like most romantic pairings, ideal matches with wine and chocolate can be complicated.

After 25 years in the medical device industry, Sherry decided to turn her passion for wine into a full-fledged career. After a rigorous certification process that included lectures, tastings, reviews, and examination Sherry was certified through the International Sommelier Guild. This training is not for the weak and concludes with a seven-part theory exam and blind tastings. The course requires a minimum passing grade of 70% in each examination. A slim 20% of students pass and receive their credentials.

As an expert, Sherry recommends drinking what you like but also be willing to be adventurous. Many of us purchase wine based on factors ranging from familiarity to price point to label design which are not always the best strategies. When purchasing wine, Sherry suggests considering the occasion and the food pairing. She says, “Try to match the intensity of the flavors, flavor profile, and texture. For example, a delicate fish with lemon will pair better with a lighter-body wine with citrus notes and higher acidity. Similarly, choose a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate you are pairing.” Individual preferences are important because we all have different taste profiles. But if unsure, ask for assistance. Sherry says she sincerely appreciates getting other expert opinions. “That’s how we learn!” she says.

Education is clearly part of the enjoyment for her and can be for both novice and expert. Local wineries in Minnesota have been getting accolades and are worth a visit and easily accessible. Many vineyards offer tastings and an exploration of their unique processes. Sherry also said the University of Minnesota has done a great job with cultivar development of cold hardy varietals such as Itasca. They have invested a lot of time and resources into this project. 

Wine is available at a wide variety of price points in stores and in restaurants, but Sherry cautions expensive does not always mean better. “I personally think finding the hidden gem is fun which is usually a rare wine of great value. No matter your price point, quality is most important.” 

Sherry contends that wine and chocolate are two of life’s greatest pleasures. But how are they best enjoyed? She suggests tasting light to dark and beginning with the lightest-bodied pairing and working your way to the fullest-bodied. “Start by awakening your palate with a small sip of wine. Then place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue and let it melt slowly in your mouth. You want the chocolate flavors to develop as it melts throughout your mouth. Once the chocolate is almost fully consumed take another sip of wine. Ideally, the wine should enhance the taste of the chocolate, and the chocolate compliments the suitable characteristics of the wine.”

As with food and wine pairing, intensity matters. Dark chocolate has lower sugar content, and that bitter intensity is best paired with a wine that has a hint of sweetness for balance. Sherry shares, “The most magical pairing is Banyuls, which is one of France’s most important sweet, fortified wines, made primarily of Grenache or Grenache Blanc grapes. Sweeter wines like a vintage or tawny port work great. Seek out a juicy Zinfandel or a New World Pinot Noir. Just avoid dry reds with high tannins because those will accentuate the bitterness.”

With Valentine’s Day approaching, we all need tips on how to impress our loved ones. Sherry has a perfect idea of how to cap off an evening. “If you are surprising your special someone with hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries, try a sparkling red like Brachetto d’Acqui from Italy or the sparkling rosé called French Kiss by JCB.”

Wine and chocolate. Soulmates for the senses.

If you want to learn more from Sherry about everything wine head to farmandvine.club.

Awaken your palate with a small sip of wine. Then place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue and let it melt slowly in your mouth. 

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