Source: Fine Cooking #102 (also at FineCooking.com)
As much as you might want them to work together, red wine doesn’t pair with chocolate. There have been several times that I have some red wine left over from dinner when the chocolate cake comes out for dessert, and suddenly the red wine tastes bitter and sour. But if you pair that dessert with a sweet wine, it suddenly works.
The chocolate cake in question is one that has been featured on this blog before. Back when I first started the blog. It’s a cake that uses both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder in the batter to make it extra rich. And the icing is essentially a whipped chocolate ganache that has more chocolate than the cake itself. The recipe takes it right over the top with homemade marshmallows, but this step is entirely optional if you want to save yourself some work (though it makes for an amazing presentation!).
I also have another chocolate layer cake that is tied with this for my favourite chocolate cake. I’ll need to do a side-by-side comparison some time.
Back to the wine… when most people think of sweet wine, they think of something super-sweet without much wine personality to it. But there’s a whole world of amazing wines that are sweet, without the sweetness being the defining characteristic of the wine. Vintage port is and Sauternes are both examples that come to mind.
For dark chocolate, vintage port is the perfect pairing. If you enjoy big red wines, you’ll love vintage port. A good vintage port is very similar to a great red wine. You don’t really notice the increased alcohol content (usually 20%) because it’s offset by the sweetness. And the sweetness isn’t anything that hits you over the head because it’s balanced by the body of the wine and the alcohol. And it’s this sweetness that allows it to pair perfectly with this chocolate cake.
(Read up on vintage port before serving… it’s not as easy as uncorking and pouring.)