There's an "it" couple that everyone wants at their party every Christmas -- the duo that livens up the festivities, gives the crowd something to talk about, and adds that certain something to make the gathering memorable.
This pair, for example: a delicate bite of a smooth, hand-dipped pomegranate-raspberry-rose chocolate and a sip of 2008 Chapoutier Banyuls, a rich, red dessert wine. This is a coupling that encompasses fragrance, flavor and feel, and it's perfect for either a swanky soiree or a nightcap for one.
Andrew Starr and Jennifer Spielman, owners of Black Star Chocolates, team up from time to time with Mondo Vino, the wine shop at 3601 West 32nd Avenue, to offer samples of their sinfully scrumptious chocolates and truffles to discerning shoppers who appreciate quality in confections and aperitifs. This holiday season their tasting menu includes fresh rosemary caramels, salted caramel truffles, jasmine chocolates and pomegranate-raspberry-rose chocolates, which recently won the award for best non-traditional truffle at this year's Holiday Chocolate Festival in Colorado Springs.
Pairing chocolates and wine isn't a new thing, but it's not always simple to balance personal tastes in both to create a combo that works. For instance, rosemary-infused caramels dipped in dark chocolate would really have to have something bold and sweet to balance the brawny pine flavor -- a cream sherry or a port might work. But other chocolates are easy as cake to pair, such as the signature lavender chocolate squares with something fruity, red and slightly effervescent, like a Lambrusco or Brachetto d'Acqui.
The best wine-chocolate couplings are subjective, but Mondo Vino's wine selection is so broad that it makes the ideas flow like bubbly, and Black Star's tasting menu contains so many floral- and spice-based chocolates that searching for not just acceptable but amazing wine flavors and aromas to complement them is almost as satisfying as enjoying the nibbles and sips.
Here are some photographic delights and suggestions to inspire you to make your own pairings -- but don't forget that pairing chocolates with mouths is still, and always will be, trendy enough by itself.
Spielman hands over the goods -- in this case, a mixed holiday sampler box including anise caramels, which would pair well with a dark, spicy Cabernet.
Fans of Black Star Chocolates are their holiday bread and butter, and Starr says he is very pleased with so much repeat business.
Another fine pairing is Jennifer Spielman and Andrew Starr -- he's the comic relief.
BSC's rosemary caramels are tough to pair -- but if white wines are your thing, go with a really grassy Sauvignon Blanc; Kim Crawford's would do nicely.
A salted caramel truffle would make an exciting after-dinner treat paired with...
...a bottle of Santo Stefano Moscato d'Asti, because its waxy honey notes will bring out the caramel flavors without being overwhelming to the palate.
Black Star's lavender chocolates really need something red, sweet and ripe-berry-heavy, such as...
...a bottle of Pineto Brachetto D'Acqui, with its deep overripe cherry and strawberry flavors and hint of tartness, or the Braida Brachetto D'Acqui that smacks of rose petals and raspberries. Both are slightly effervescent, and so would add a festive note to the holiday celebrations.
Zardetto's Vino Spumante Rosé would be an interesting pairing with BSC's jasmine chocolates because it has sharp bubbles, is bright with pink pepper and fruity with ripe plum notes, and would play off the floral notes of the chocolate.
The pomegranate-raspberry-rose chocolates would go well with a bottle of 2008 Chapoutier Banyuls red dessert wine, since the wine has firm tannins, hints of almond and autumn hay, and isn't so sweet that it will compete with the chocolate.
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The author's winning combination? Black Star's lavender chocolates with a chilled bottle of Lambrusco dell' Emilia Rosso. This sweet, bubbly red has ripe berry and violet notes, and, since it's under $10 a bottle, I can afford to buy more chocolates.