It’s February, and in H-Town that means two things: Valentine’s Day and run-up to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. For fans of Rodeo Uncorked!, these events also mean opportunities to learn more about wine.
Pairing Wine with Chocolate
Valentine’s Day is synonymous with chocolate. Wine and chocolate can be a match made in heaven, but you have to have the right wine with the right chocolate. In general, it's best to match lighter, more elegant-flavored chocolates with lighter bodied wines. Similarly, the stronger the chocolate, the more intense your wine should be. Here are some recommended pairings for specific types of chocolate:
Technically, white chocolate is not a chocolate at all: It doesn’t include cocoa, just cocoa fat. But what chocolate lover doesn’t crave a little of this creamy confection now and then? Because of its delicate nature, it pairs best with white wines that are on the sweeter side. Think ice wines, late-harvest Rieslings or Moscato. Some experts claim that sparkling wines and champagnes pair very well with white chocolate, as long as the varietals have body, color and sweetness.
Milk chocolate is a creamy mix of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, sugar and milk solids. With its nice balance between sweet milk and rich, chocolate flavors, it pairs well with a wide variety of wine. While versatile, milk chocolate tends to be on the sweeter side and calls for pairings with a similar sugar content. Recommended wines include classic dessert wines such as Port, Madeira or Vin Santo. Milk chocolate can also pair nicely with lighter, dry reds such as Pinot Noir or Merlot. For a real treat, try drinking your favorite sparkling wine with milk chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Dark chocolate includes semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate. These are the richest and most intensely flavored of all chocolates. They have a higher cacao content — anywhere from 35 to 100 percent— and call for big, bold wines with a hint of sweetness. Consider Port, Pedro Ximénez or Banyuls, a fortified favorite from Southern France, that may present the ultimate in wine and dark chocolate pairings. Fuller-bodied wines such as Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends all work well for dark and bitter chocolate. Pinot Noir and Merlot are good for dark chocolate with a lower percentage of chocolate liquor.
Chocolate isn’t a solo item. Often, it is mixed with other sweet treats to make an even more decadent confection. Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly (www.winefolly.com) recommends these pairings for flavored chocolates to inspire you.
• Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Some of the sweet sparkling reds, including Brachetto d’Acqui and Lambrusco Amabile, are a great place to start.
• Ginger Dark Chocolate: Orange Muscat does wonders with ginger.
• Peanut Butter Cups: Wines with some sweetness and nuttiness are the secret here, including Madeira, Marsala and Amontillado/Oloroso Sherry.
• Caramel Chocolates: Wines aged with oxidation, including Tawny Port (20 years and over) and Moscatel de Setubal.
• Chocolate Mint: Try a single-varietal Syrah, Touriga Nacional, or Petite Sirah Port.
Champion Wine Garden at RODEOHOUSTON
Enjoy live music and savor more than 70 wines at the oasis next to NRG Stadium. The Wine Garden, located in Carruth Plaza next to the stadium, is one of the hottest spots on the Rodeo grounds. The Wine Garden will be open throughout the run of the show, March 3 - March 22. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Wine Garden offers:
• An opportunity to taste award winners from the 2020 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition. Tastings are available by the glass or the bottle. For the menu, visit rodeohouston.com, click on Visit The Rodeo and then click on Wine Garden.
• Enjoy live music daily. For the schedule, go to rodeohouston.com.
• Wine seminars: Sip, taste and learn through a series of seminars that will introduce you to some of the best loved wines from our International Wine Competition. These seminars are great for groups and are hosted in the Champion Wine Garden. Prices range from $40-$70 per person and you must be 21+ years old to participate. For more information go to rodeohouston.com and click Visit The Rodeo and then click on Wine Garden.
• The Champion Wine Garden is a popular destination that grows each year. To learn more about table reservations for smaller groups and tent reservations for larger groups, visit rodeohouston.com.