Pairing desserts and wines.
WINE AND CHOCOLATE. CHAMPAGNE AND STRAWBERRIES. RIESLING AND CHEESECAKE? WANT TO HAVE YOUR DESSERT AND DRINK IT TOO? THINK BEYOND THE STANDARD PAIRINGS FOR AN AMAZING WAY TO END A MEAL OR JUST ENJOY A TREAT.
SHARING IS CARING
One of my favorite things in life has been enjoying a long meal around a table in France. So when I hosted my wine tasting group recently, I planned a typical French meal. Our discovery of great cheeses paired with cabernet sauvignon appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Rochester Women magazine.
On an extended trip to France last summer, a friend taught me how to make authentic French mousse au chocolat. This elegant, make-ahead dessert with just four ingredients is a knock-out option for hosts who don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen while their guests are present. It was ideal to serve at this gathering, especially since cabernet sauvignon is known for its ability to complement chocolate.
When preparing to write this article, I assumed that those people I interviewed would jump to the red wine and chocolate recommendation. Interestingly, I got some unique and exciting options for combinations.
Steve Shanahan, sommelier at Andy’s Liquor gave me the most freeing advice when I asked about good wines to serve with desserts. He said, “A lot of people put too much emphasis on pairing sometimes. The best information I have learned is if you like a certain food and you like a certain wine, put them together.” He says there are some dos and don’ts, though. “If a food is salty, don’t match it with a full-body cabernet. But when it comes to chocolate and desserts, the sky’s the limit. You literally can pair anything.”
With spring in the air, we’ll start thinking about lighter desserts, such as carrot cake, as well as lighter wines. Shanahan recommends wines that are “not too overly sweet, like a French Vouvray.”
Three other wines to try with desserts this spring are Champagne, ice wine and moscato. Shanahan advises staying “true to the sweetness level. The sweeter the dessert, the sweeter the wine.” He suggests, “Try a moscato d’Asti or Sauternes from France.” If the sparkling wine is a demi sec, serve it with a less sweet dessert. “Match the fragility of the bubbles,” with a lighter dessert.
Lynette Nash at the Chocolate Shoppe in Mantorville and I had a conversation about pairing wine with desserts. She sells delicious caramel apples all year long. I asked Shanahan what to drink with that. He says, “I’d open three different styles of wine to try including a good moscato because you get a lot of apple flavor with that.”
CHOCOLATE AND WINE, A CLASSIC COMBINATION
I asked Shanahan for a good pairing to accompany the chocolate mousse at my French dinner. He recommends, “A good tawny port.” At the Wines of the World event every March, Andy’s Liquor presents different flavors of chocolate with different styles of port. One style is a ruby port, which is young. Shanahan says, “They stop the fermentation early, so it retains the sweetness that helps it pair well with chocolates.”
Nash has provided chocolates for the annual Small Dog Rescue Wine & Chocolate Spectacular for the past four years, and she says, “People tend to prefer dark chocolate with wines.” According to Nash, deeper red wines offset the sweetness of desserts well. “Wine should be smooth and so should chocolate, and you don’t need a lot of either to make it feel like you’ve had a nice dessert.”
For a home tasting, you can find many options at the Chocolate Shoppe. Nash explains, “We have pecan and cashew turtles, and chocolate-covered pretzel rods that you could put together in a nice combination to take to a wine tasting.” She says that customers love drinking wine with her special toffee bark, which is chocolate filled with toffee bits. Another popular option is her chocolate truffles, which have a dark chocolate interior with either a light or dark chocolate exterior. You’ll find chocolate Easter bunnies on her shelves these days, and you can order them and anything else online and have it sent to you.
You can have your chocolate and drink it too. Shanahan says that, similar to Bailey’s Irish Cream, chocolate wines, which are found in the cordials section, are made with wine instead of whiskey. Ness says while you can find chocolate wines that don’t have lots of artificial flavors in them, you should read the ingredient list carefully.
YOU CAN’T GO WRONG
If you’d rather have someone else do the work, head to Mantorville and cap off your evening at the Hubbell House. Alaina Pappas recommends their homemade bread pudding and caramel sauce with a pinot gris, their French silk dessert with a pinot noir or their seven-layer chocolate cake with their red blend.
Go forth and enjoy your dessert and wine, but do it your way. Nash says, “Whether it is the proper way, it’s ultimately people’s taste buds.” Shanahan agrees, saying, “Don’t get frustrated or make it too big of a deal. Explore and have fun!”
Mousse au chocolat recipe translated and adapted from Marmiton.org. Check out Rochester Women magazine Facebook page for more tips and tricks, the original recipe and step-by-step photos.
Easy Chocolate Mousse
- 6 eggs
- 8 ounces milk or dark chocolate*
- 2 tsp. sugar
- A few drops of vanilla
- 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
- A pinch of sugar, or to taste
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- Raspberries, optional
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat.
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks and put in separate large bowls.
- Mix the sugar with the egg yolks.
- Add ¼ cup of the melted chocolate to the egg yolks and sugar. Mix well, then slowly add remaining chocolate to egg yolks and sugar.
- Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into chocolate mixture with a spatula.
- Pour into one larger bowl or several smaller ramekins and chill at least
- 1-2 hours.
- Whip cream until stiff peaks form, adding the sugar and vanilla slowly.
- Pipe or spoon on top of mousse or serve separately.
- Top with a raspberry or several, if desired.
*Darker chocolate will create a firmer consistency.
Emily Watkins is a writer and editor.