From its Roman origins, to Chaucer’s 18th-century England, to the modern-day commercialised affair, St. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love in many countries around the world that invariably comes accompanied by dinner, wine and for some reason, chocolate.
Chocolate is one of those things that pairs badly with most wines. Sure, you can go with the Friends adage of ‘Custard, good, beef good, what’s the problem?’, but if you’ve tried pairing it in the past, you’ve probably found that chocolate and white or red wine get pretty scratchy with one another. There are, however, some quite excellent alternatives, although they are probably not the first wines you would think of, despite being traditional in Catalunya.
NV VINYES DELS ASPRES - VI DE PANSES NV
This is a dessert wine from Empordà. Yes, it’s sweet, but let me emphasise that it’s extremely elegant, vinified using dried grapes with no alcohol added via the mutage process that the French use in the production of Vin Doux Naturel. Made from 100 percent Grenache, it carries balanced sugar as well as acidity and is wonderful with very dark chocolate. Almond and hazelnut aromas lend a nuttiness to the wine, which, combined with light floral notes, make for one delicious bottle. €20
ARRELS DEL PRIORAT - ARRELS 30 ANYS
This is a traditional, oxidised wine from southern Catalunya called, vi ranci. Meaning ’rancid wine’, the name sounds horrible in English, but the wines of this style are more akin to a Catalan cognac than anything else. This particular wine, the product of a collaboration between René Barbier of Clos Mogador and Jaume Balaguer of Gratallops, is best paired with lighter chocolates. Also made with 100 percent Grenache, it has apricot, fig, and quince aromas. The hit of acidity at the front of the palate gives way to untold depth, as well as notes of toasted almonds and walnuts. €30
Miquel Hudin is originally from California but is now based in Barcelona. He founded the Vinologue enotourism series of wine books. www.vinologue.com