Red & Rosé Bubbles! And What’s the Deal with Wine & Chocolate?
With Valentine’s weekend having just passed, sparkling wines and Champagne were at the forefront, along with flowers and chocolates. Red and rosé sparkling wines seem appropriate for Valentine’s Day, and not just for the colour. Red sparkling wines are a unique category and can be very food-friendly and range from dry to off-dry. Rosé sparkling wines are actually often more expensive than their white counterparts. Rosé sparkling wines range from bone dry, savoury and full-bodied, to fruity and effervescent and generally combine the freshness of a white and the structure of a red. Rosé sparkling wines are also very versatile food wines.
Marotti Campi ‘Xyris’ Mosto di Uve, Marche Italy ($27)
This is a red sparkling wine from the east-central coastal Italian region of Marche made from the Lacrima grape which is an aromatic red grape with typical aromas of roses, violets and crushed berries. The wine is very juicy and fresh with loads of crushed berry flavours. It also has a very pleasant natural sweetness, but it’s balanced with fresh acidity so that it’s not cloyingly sweet and at 6.5%, it’s totally crushable. Excellent with cured meats and also berry and chocolate desserts.
Paltrinieri ‘Leclisse’ Lambrusco di Sorbara, 2016, Emilia-Romagna Italy ($30)
Lambruscos are a group of grapes traditionally used to produce red sparkling wines in the western ‘Emilia’ part of Emilia-Romagna. The grape used for this wine is Lambrusco di Sorbara and although it is a red sparkling wine, it looks like a rose because the Sorbara grape doesn’t have a lot of pigment in its skins, so it results in more of a pinkish colour as opposed to a red colour. The wine shows loads of strawberry and raspberry aromas, with bright acidity and a long dry, savoury, but fruity finish. A great pizza wine or with grilled sausages, cotechino or any meat with a little fattiness.
Aphros Phaunus Pet Nat Rosé, 2018, Minho Portugal ($45)
Aphros is one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming in Portugal. This is an ancient method sparkling made from a single fermentation without added yeast or sugar, spontaneously fermented with skins in clay amphora lined with beeswax. The colour is actually more of a light gold than pink, but it’s delicious, so no matter that the colour doesn’t fit with a commercial perception of rosé. The wine is very refreshing with stone fruit, tart cranberry notes, juicy, earthy and mineral with a lip-smacking finish. A blend of alvarelhão and vinhão.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Rosé Grand Cru, Champagne France ($195)
A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from vineyards in Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzenay. Full-bodied, deep and layered with a defined core of cranberry, raspberry and citrus fruits, fresh-baked brioche, elegant and creamy bubbles and a long, mouth-watering finish. Quite a stunning Champagne.
What’s the deal with wine and chocolate?
In general, and this is a generality, wine and chocolate are not a good match and the vast majority of wines actually do not pair well with chocolate. But it really depends on the type of wine and the type of chocolate. The general rule when you are pairing wine with anything sweet is that the wine has to be at least as sweet as whatever it is that you are serving with it otherwise the flavours will clash and often result in bitterness. So, in general, dessert wines eg. Port, Moscato d’Asti, late harvest, etc are the types of wines that tend to pair well with chocolate.
But, even chocolate has varying degrees of sweetness depending on the percentage of cocoa. The higher percentage of cocoa content, the less sweet the chocolate. So if you have dark chocolate with 85-95% cocoa content, it will be more bitter than sweet and you can pair it with a wine that doesn’t have as much sweetness. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, will have more sweetness due to less cocoa and more sugar, so it will pair better with wines that have more sweetness. Champagne and chocolate are generally not a good pairing unless the level of sweetness or lack of sweetness of the chocolate matches the appropriate level of sweetness or lack of sweetness of the Champagne or sparkling wine. The Marotti Campi Xyris (the first red sparkling mentioned above), for example, does have some sweetness and actually pairs quite well with semi-sweet chocolate (30-70%). Ultimately, though, it’s fun to experiment and if people eat what they like and drink what they like, things will likely work out okay.