Wine Tasting: Pairing Port Wine and Chocolate in New York City
>> It is my pleasure to introduce you to an ultra-pleasurable, under-$20 tasting experience that can yield enough food and drink to share with four or five friends...a bargain in New York!
Let's start with wine: Port wine, to be exact. Unlike most wines, Port wine pairs perfectly with chocolate, making the combination of the two deliciously good.
Port (a product of Portugal) is a tasty, 19% proof beverage. Two-ounces of Port has significantly more inebriation value than 4-ounces of, let's say, Chardonnay, so a little goes a long way. The difference? Scarf up cheese and crackers all night long with Chardonnay and you might get drunk. Eat a fine chocolate or two with a small glass of Port, and you're well on your way.
The British Influence on Wine and Portugal
The wine I'd like you to sample with chocolate is produced in vineyards along Portugal's Douro River.
Port wine was created in the late 1600s for British merchant sailors who, because of frequent French wars, couldn't get Bordeaux. Unfortunately, rough Atlantic voyages unstablized the Portuguese wines that they could acquire, making them less palatable upon delivery. To fix the problem, a small amount of brandy was added during the fermentation process. This stopped fermentation and stabilized the wine, resulting in a beverage that could withstand the rigors of travel. For additional information, see Portugal-info.net.
Today, Port-style wine is also made in Australia and California. Only true Portuguese wines, however, can be labeled "porto." Frankly, once you compare the taste of porto wines to copycats, I think you'll find them superior in every way.
Buy Ruby or Tawny Port
Buy either Ruby Port (younger) or Tawny Port (aged) for this tasting. I prefer Tawny Port, but Ruby has a more fruity taste that you might like better with chocolate. Other types of Port, such as white and LBV, are not under consideration in this article.
You'll know that you are buying authentic Port wine when you see:
- the word Porto on the label (1)
- some form of winery identification molded (or stamped) directly onto the glass bottle (2) - although this isn't always the case
- the official governmental seal of Portugal which is taped
over the cap (3)
I particularly love the corks. Unlike standard wine corks, which require drilling, Port wine corks are attached to a cover disk. Push on the disk with your thumbs and the bottle opens (or closes) easily.
The best part is that wonderfully delicious Port wine, such as Noval Fine Ruby Porto, falls within a $10 to $20 price-range. If, for this tasting, you want to spend more, I recommend that you do so on chocolate.
The New York Chocolate Connection
This being America and New York, consider buying the most American of chocolates, Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses. If you are in Manhattan, dash over to the dazzling, multi-story Hershey's Times Square store at 48th Street and Broadway for the genuine article. If you aren't in town, buy Kisses (or Hershey's mini's) at any bodega, drugstore, grocery, or gas station in your neighborhood.
By all means, consider purchasing your tasting samples from one of New York's gourmet chocolate shops, such as the "fresh from France" La Maison du Chocolate at the Rockefeller Center. Buy creamy, filled chocolates (chocolate granache) as well as those filled with hazelnut paste. Also experiment with high coca-content chocolate bars and/or pieces.
Very rich, sweet chocolate desserts, truffles, and even fruit pies are best paired with Tawny Port. Why? The rule is that if the food is very sweet, a less sweet beverage complements it.
Port wine tastes best warmer, so room temperature Port is perfect as long as that room isn't roasting above 70.
Warm, softer chocolate is best, so milk chocolate might be better than a chunk of hard, dark chocolate. The idea is to let the chocolate melt in your mouth, lightly chewed, then slowly wash it down with Port. Chocolate that's too chilled or too hard tends to be swallowed in ground-up chunks before all the flavor is released and it doesn't combine interestingly with the wine.
Unused Port Wine
Leftover Port wine is fabulous in sauces, and is especially handy in perking up leftovers of all types.
Cooking, of course, causes the alcohol to evaporate, so don't worry about serving your children Port wine gravy over yesterday's meatloaf. Consider using Port wine to perk-up almost any leftover Chinese dish (it's incredibly tasty).
Port Wine and Your Hotel Room
Frankly, I love to drink Port wine anywhere, except when heavy beverage consumption is a requirement. Don’t, for example, swill Port at a beach party. Because of its high alcohol content, it’s guaranteed to give you an immediate buzz and a great big smile. That alone makes drinking Port wine paired with luxurious chocolates an outstanding wine tasting adventure . . . one you can use to begin an exciting evening out on Broadway.
Questions? Just ask!
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 4/3/2007. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.