It's been a long day, and Valentine's Day is approaching (eek!). But you're not panicking, because you just pulled out your beloved stash of chocolate and plan to pop the cork of something to pair with it. Chances are it's a standard bottle of red wine, like cabernet sauvignon, which seems an obvious enough choice for chocolate. However, good wine pairings require like flavors to match. In this sweet, chocolaty case, that requires a sweet, cacao-noted wine to match, like a zinfandel port. Sure, it sounds like something your grandfather would sip on while smoking a cigar after dinner, but let's leap beyond any preconceived notions to examine the basics of port and its best chocolate pairing.
For starters, port isn't a hard liqueur. It's is a fortified wine (a mixture of wine and brandy) with a higher alcohol percentage than a standard bottle of red wine (20 percent ABV versus 12.5 to 15.5 percent). Port pours out deep purple and tastes raisin-y and jammy with a tinge of caramel and cacao. The concentrated, syrupy body forces the drinker to slow down, sip, and savor, like with a square of chocolate.
While you can technically pair port with a variety of chocolates — milk, dark, those with dried fruit, and others with caramel centers — the best pairing we found with this zinfandel port is Veruca Chocolate Tiles ($15), a salt-sprinkled dark chocolate that sways on the bitter side. The tannins of the chocolate awaken the tannins in the port and balance the port's inherent sweetness. Some wine can be too acrid and acidic to seamlessly weld with chocolate; however, it's as if this zinfandel port becomes the jelly filling of the chocolate. Taste it to believe.