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.