Category Archives: Holidays

Wine & Chocolate Pairing

Two of life’s greatest pleasures can be the hardest to pair together. Wine and chocolate are both decadent and pleasurable and a delight to have together,  when done correctly.  Sweet chocolate with tannic wine can make the wine taste bitter and is a match to avoid. You need to balance sweet with sweet – a good rule of thumb is: keep the wine as sweet as the chocolate.

regalechocolateHere is a quick guide to which wines go well with types of chocolate

White Chocolate
Lots of sugar here, and very little cocoa, so pair white with white – try Ice wine, sweet Muscat or a sweeter style Riesling.

Milk Chocolate
Try a ripe and juicy Pinot Noir from California or a dessert wine, like an Australian “sticky.”

Dark Chocolate
The one that pairs best with red wines, try Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon (preferably ones that are not too tannic, unless your cocoa content is high).

Chocolate desserts
Yum… chocolate dessert. From cake to mousse to souffle, chocolate desserts are popular and delicious. Port is a classic for all types of chocolate – truffles, cakes, etc. All sorts of port, but particularly tawny port, due to the nutty flavor, matches well chocolate desserts. Try also Australian Muscat, Banyuls or another fortified wine.

Since many of us pull out some chocolate while we are still enjoying the red wine from dinner, it’s not a set rule so don’t shy away from testing and tasting. Some chocolates have added flavors – cherry, orange or nuts. A few that I’ve had that tasted delicious recently:

Chateauneuf-du-Pape with cherry flavored dark chocolate (60%) – this would probably go well with Pinot Noir, too.
A Margaux (Bordeaux) with orange flavored dark chocolate (70%) sticks
An Italian super tuscan  blend with hazelnut dark chocolate (60%)

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy them both!

Breaking the rules–throwing traditional tips out the window

A few weeks ago, we asked folks to give us their best holiday wine tip. We’ll be featuring (and expanding upon) a few this week.

Nathan T. says: “My tip? Drink what you like and don't worry about all the "RULES" – in fact, break the rules and drink a nice big red with your Christmas turkey!”

Yes! Sometimes (actually, quite often) it’s good to  break the rules. To be honest, they shouldn’t even be considered rules, simply suggestions. When you think of wine rules, don’t think of them as meant to restrict you, only to guide you in a direction that may make your taste buds happy. That said, sometimes it’s a good idea to think (drink) outside the box. One of my most memorable matches was at a small little restaurant in Genoa, Italy, when my husband and I missed our train to Nice and wandered around trying to find somewhere for a late dinner. The sommelier (who had actually spent some time at a restaurant in Savannah, Georgia!) recommended an Italian Sauvignon Blanc with our thinly sliced steak. We took his suggestion, and it was one of the best parings I can remember.

A couple of traditional “rules” that you can adhere to or disregard include:

– Drink white wine before red – while this often makes sense, due to the fact that some white wine won’t taste as great if you are drinking it after a heavy red, sometimes a white wine can taste even better and more refreshing when consumed after red. Particularly if you are serving a salad or light course at the end of the meal. Or even as an after-dinner drink – no need to serve an even heavier wine, instead try a light white that will refresh the palate.

– White wine with fish, red wine with meat – as I mentioned above, one of my favorite pairings was a white wine with red meat. It was 6 years ago and I still remember my taste buds being so pleased! Though meat may overpower a white or red wine may over power some fish and make it taste slightly metallic, If you are enjoying both, knock yourself out!

What other “rules” do you like or dislike?

Chilling white wine quickly and other festive tips

A few weeks ago, we asked folks to give us their best holiday wine tip. We’ll be featuring (and expanding upon) a few this week.

Kayla B. says: “Keep large, metal spoons in the freezer at all times. Stir individual wine servings with a cold spoon to instantly cool the wine's temperature. This serves the same purpose as adding an ice cube, but won't dilute the vino!”

We love great tips for chilling wine quickly. When you realize you want something chilled but don’t have the time to chill it, we look for ways to speed up the process. I’ve been known to throw an ice cube in my wine (wine is, after all 75% water), but it can dilute the beverage and I’d prefer another method. We love Kayla’s tip above about the frozen spoon. At my house, we keep empty wine bottles in the freezer. When we need a chilled glass of wine, we pour a bit of it into the frozen bottle – just as much as we need. Smaller amounts help it chill faster.

Beyond the ice cube, or chilling the bottle down in a bucket of ice & water, you can also be festive! If you’re serving a quaffable bubbly (think Cava or Prosecco), try adding some frozen pomegranate seeds to each glass. This will not chill the wine to the level of cold you need, but it will keep it chilled and looks quite festive. You can also throw frozen green grapes into a white wine, though be aware that those can get soggy.

What are some of your favorite ways to chill down wine quickly?

Be a prepared guest–what to bring to a party

A few weeks ago, we asked folks to give us their best holiday wine tip. We’ll be featuring (and expanding upon) a few this week.

Lola M. says: “Always carry a corkscrew with you if you are taking wine somewhere for consumption away from home. We keep one in the glove box. I can't tell you how many times we have gone to a party with a bottle to find that the host or the facilities doesn't have one.”

Lola brings up a good point. If you’re a wine drinker and going to a party or festivities put on by non-wine drinkers, it may be worth bringing a wine accessory as well as a bottle of wine as a gift. While you certainly don’t want to offend, people who are not regular wine drinkers who serve wine at parties can have poor serving utensils.  Along with a bottle of wine, you could include a pair (or more) of nice wine glasses or a set of wine charms. And a good corkscrew is always handy to have around, even if you are not a frequent drinker, so bring one to have on hand, or as a gift.

Evolution of the Gift Basket

Baskets have been used to hold, carry and gift things for many centuries, from perfume to eggs to wine. And the idea of the gift basket as we know it, the kind Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute passed around to former clients on The Office, is still one of the most popular forms of gift-giving during the holidays and other major events. Something about the basket and its contents presents an attractive package to distribute as a gift.

I actually found a nice article on the history of gift baskets here, which, instead of repeating, I’ll let you read for yourself.

For us at Wine.com, we’ve been part of the gifting business for a while, but we’ve also taken a different look at the basket. There are some who are perhaps tired of giving (or getting) wicker to hold a gift,  not to mention that baskets often have a lot of filling that gets thrown out.

If you are tired of wicker, here are some ideas for gift “basket” alternatives:

Tuscan Trattoria – Since you receive pasta with this gift, what better way to package it than in a colander! So really, you get to use all that you get here. Less waste, more use.

Executive Selection Cabernet Quartet – All business here, with four bottles of wine and some goodies and gadgets – we put it all in a leatherette magazine holder rather than a basket. Definitely something that can be used afterwards.

Spanish Paella Gift Set – Another foodie gift that gets packaged with a Paella pan rather than a wicker basket – use and re-use.

Do you buy gift baskets as gifts? What do you look for when you do?