Wine and Chocolate

I’m always suspicious of wines that claim to go with chocolate.

Any wine that could possibly go with chocolate would need to be acidic enough to cut through the cloying chocolate coating over the palate, sweet enough to complement the sugar and have an appropriate flavour profile to match the (bitter)sweetness. Something like a botrytised super-acidic Merlot, were such a thing to exist!

Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat is a fortified wine (17.5% abv), so perhaps not a dessert wine in the ‘true’ sense, but more akin to, say, a tawny port. Muscat is a very versatile and widely grown grape – producing table wines, dessert wines, fortified liqueur wines, and even a red, semi-sparkling wine. It has even been suggested to be the oldest known domesticated grape variety.

Rutherglen is a small town on the New South Wales-Victoria border in Australia. (As an aside: why is it called New South Wales? The answer may be found here.) It has been home to the Campbells winery since 1870 and somewhere along the line they’ve picked up the title of their Muscats being ‘the world’s richest wines’. I couldn’t possibly comment on this hyperbole but I can comment on their Rutherglen Muscat.

In the glass, this wine is a rich red-brown with a yellow-orange rim. The nose has a wonderful ‘fruitcake’ profile to it: raisins, brandy, nutmeg, orange peel, prunes (or ‘dried plums’ as they’re more fashionably called these days). These flavours all carry through to the palate, along with some subtle oaking, though it’s difficult to identify against the stewed fruit cacophony.

The acidity is fairly high – this is needed as the wine is heavy and viscous with a luscious sweetness. The 17.5% alcohol, is of course high, yet in looking for the alcohol’s role in a balanced palate you need to remember this is a fortified wine. Nevertheless I do feel as though the alcohol ‘stands out’ a little too much – it just feels a bit ‘hot’ on the palate. Although, as an after dinner treat, you couldn’t go too far wrong – especially on a cold winter’s night.

So, the final verdict: does it go with chocolate?

To my surprise, it actually did! Better so with milk rather than dark. I could also see this wine served with plum pudding, or blended into whipped cream at Christmas time. My favourite though, was served chilled, to accompany morsels of goat’s cheese.

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About James

James Flewellen is a biophysicist at the University of Oxford. He has competed for the University in international blind tasting competitions and won several awards. In addition, James is a wine educator and wine writer, most recently co-authoring "The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting". He also writes for the international gastronome site "The Rambling Epicure", and can be contacted for wine consultancy and educational courses through the "Oxford Wine Academy".
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4 Responses to Wine and Chocolate

  1. Chris Wanty says:

    Hi James,

    We’ve been going to a winery weekend in Rutherglen for the last few years, called Tastes of Rutherglen for any that might be reading this and interested. Fantastic region for Muscat, Tokay, and fortifieds in general. Campbells is one I’d not tried until this year, but I agree they’re fantastic.

    If you can find them, I’d also recommend for tasting the All Saints Grand Muscat, and most of the fortifieds from Stanton and Killeen. All Saints is the most commercial vineyard of the region, and Stanton and Killeen one of the most well known. Both produce really high quality wines. Campbells is one of the best for value for money though, as a lot of their younger fortifieds taste more complex than the equivalents from the other wineries.

    Really enjoying this blog too 🙂

  2. Hanneke Wilson says:

    Dear James,

    Excellent blog – congratulations!

    I agree that Liqueur Muscat works with chocolate, but I haven’t got a sweet enough tooth: residual sugar levels vary but are at least 170 g/l and often over 200 g/l. If you would like a dessert wine that is less sweet, try Maury. Maury is a vin doux naturel, a sweet fortified wine from the Roussillon. Fortification with brandy stops the fermentation before it is complete: the result is a wine that has 15% alcohol and has retained part of its natural sugar, typically around 125 g/l. It owes its flavour to its Grenache grapes, not to the fortifying agent, which is a neutral-tasting spirit.

    Mas Amiel makes an unusual style of Maury, which is carefully aged in tank to protect it from oxidation. Thus it has none of the rancio (nutty, oxidative) character of most Maury; instead there is a wonderful balance of fresh dark cherry fruit, spice, even a hint of dark chocolate, crisp acidity and a touch of tannin. Lea & Sandeman stock the 2006 vintage at £16.95 a bottle. If you want to taste the rancio, which is more like tawny port in character and does not carry a vintage date, Lea & Sandeman stock the Cuvée Spéciale at £21.95. The Wine Society has Maury Solera 1928, from the Maury Co-op, drawn from a 500-litre cask that was first filled in 1928 (£16 for a 50-cl bottle).

    For what it is worth, I prefer the Maury 2006 by Mas Amiel on account of its freshness. It is particularly good with chocolate-based puddings that include an element of fruit, especially raspberries or cherries but also orange.

  3. Pingback: Summertown Selection | The Oxford Wine Blog

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