Chocolate And Bubbly: Not A Good Match | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Chocolate And Bubbly: Not A Good Match

Chocolate And Bubbly: Not A Good Match

Israeli Port-style wines are rapidly increasing in quality.

Chocolate makes most sparkling wines taste bitter.

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Chocolate season is upon us. Americans will purchase about 29,000 tons of chocolate in the week leading up to February 14, according to the Nielson Company. That same week will also see a surge in the sale of sparkling wines, when approximately 900,000 bottles will be sold. 

The problem with these sales trends is that while chocolate and sparkling wine are both very celebratory and romantic, they don’t really play well together.  When consumed together, chocolate’s sweetness can make many sparkling wines seem a bit bitter.  So instead of chocolate and bubbly, a better pairing is chocolate and Port.

Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. During production, aguardente, a clear grape-based spirit, is added in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, while also increasing the wine’s alcohol content. Port tends to have complex, sweet flavors with notes of stewed or dried fruits, along with a rich, velvety texture, making for a very good match with chocolate, and particularly with dark chocolate.  

While true Port only comes from Portugal, the Port wine-making formula has been successfully copied the world over. In Israel, the quality of Port-style wines has been rapidly improving in recent years, and a few of those wines are truly worth seeking out. So in preparation for the upcoming deluge of chocolate, we’ve found some very good Ports and Israeli Port-style wines, any of which would be a good choice to go along with a chocolate binge.  

Porto Cordovero, Late Bottled Vintage Port, 2005: Made in Porto by the noted Port lodge of Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, this rich, sweet, full-bodied, garnet-colored wine has a delightful nose of red cherries, stewed rhubarb, and prunes, with a slight but pleasant whiff of menthol.  Look for flavors of raisins, black currents, cherries, prunes, dried figs, and mocha. While not quite as vibrant as it once was, this wine still has a bit of life. Drink within the next year. Score A- ($49.99 Available at Beacon Wine & Spirits 2120 Broadway [Manhattan], [212] 877-0028.)   

Porto Quevedo, Ruby Port, non-vintage: This was the bargain of the tasting. With an inky dark ruby-to-garnet color, and a full body, this richly sweet wine has a bouquet of cherries, stewed prunes and chocolate, with a hint of menthol and an underlying earthy layer. Look for flavors of plums, stewed cherries and prunes, with hints of cherry brandy and chocolate. Drink within the next two years.  Score B+ ($19.95 Available at Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spirits, 505 Park Ave [Manhattan], [212] 838-7500.)

Carmel, Vintage, Judean Hills, 2007: Made from Petite Sirah grapes, and fortified with grape alcohol, this garnet-colored, full-bodied wine is made in a style somewhat reminiscent of a Tawny Port. The nose is redolent of cassis, blackberries, cherries, chocolate, and spice. Flavors of cherries, cassis and mocha interplay nicely with elements of stewed prunes and cantaloupe.  Look for a lively note of black pepper on the finish.  Drink soon.  Score B+ ($42.99 Available online from, [866] 567-4370.)

Tishbi, Jonathan Tishbi, Barbera-Zinfandel, Galilee, 2006: Made from unusual mixture of equal parts Barbera and Zinfandel grapes, and fortified with a pot still brandy made from Red Muscat, this tawny-garnet-colored, full-bodied, sweet wine has flavors and aromas of dried cherries, dried cranberries, gooseberries, candied almonds, and mocha, with a light touch of spice on the finish. Drink within the next year. Score B+ ($69.99 Available online from, [866] 567-4370.)

Odem Mountain, Scarlet, Galilee, Non-vintage. Made from grapes picked at the end of the harvest, and aged for thirty months in barrels under direct sunlight, this full-boded, dark-garnet-colored, lightly-maderized, fortified wine has a nose of oak, plums, and espresso. Look for flavors of stewed cherries, plums, and chocolate. Drink within the next three years. Score B/B+. ($50.99 Available at Rockland Kosher Wine and Liquor, 27 Orchard Street [Monsey], [855] 756-7437.)

Please note that unlike table wines, Port, like other fortified wines, can last anywhere from a week to a month after opening.  Port and Port-style wines are best served slightly chilled (somewhere around 55F).

Wines were scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.

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