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Wine and chocolate

Wine has long been paired with fruit, meat and other fine foods. But pairing with chocolate has a relatively recent, and controversial, history. There are those who insist that the twain should never meet. Nevertheless, there are wines and chocolates that make perfect partners.

Chocolates, except those used in cooking, are sweet. That can make the wine taste more like grape juice. There are two approaches that can enhance rather than undercut the wine.

Combining a sweet chocolate with a dry white is not for everyone. But for the experimental it is a delightful pairing. A dry white, such as a fine German Riesling, can offset any excessive sweetness from a rich, dark Belgian chocolate.

Others will want to take the opposite road. Combining a light, milk chocolate with a heavy claret or port may be overload for some. But for those who don't want a chocolate's sugar to overload the wine, you need a wine that will stand up to it with a boldness all its own.

A heavy Spanish Marsala may be just the thing to wash down the aftertaste of a mouth-enveloping chunk of chocolate. But for the more delicate milk chocolates from Switzerland, try a lighter Sherry. If Merlot is your preferred wine of the day, let its sweet, fruity nectar be offset by the tang of a bittersweet chocolate. Too much? Go with semi-sweet chocolate instead.

Pink Zinfandel has a sweeter, more fruity aftertaste. So, if that's what you're serving with your meal, when it comes time for dessert, pick a chocolate to match. Small squares of a dark Belgian with raisins can serve the purpose without overloading your guests.

You have a wide range of wines to choose from when serving truffles. Thanks to the mushroom base of truffles, and the delicate chocolate couverature sprinkled with cocoa powder, there are several reds that perfectly compliment this fine confection. You could go for a spicy Syrah or try something more subtle, like a fine Cabernet.

But as we already saw, red isn't the only option. There are some whites that go well with chocolate. A white chocolate may be served best of all with a native wine such as Gewürztraminer. Because a white chocolate is especially rich and buttery, having no dark cocoa powder ingredients to offset it, take care to stay on the dry side with the wine.

There are those who prefer to stay with more traditional pairings. That's fine. But where food and drink are concerned, there are no rules set in stone. A little experimentation may show that a truly fine chocolate makes for a great addition to the table at even the best soirées. Enjoy!