Around Valentine’s Day I often see the recommendation to have port with chocolate, but the question is: which specific chocolate with which specific port? These two delights can dance together in lovely harmony, or quite frankly, the wrong two together can taste like crap. Not the way to spend a romantic evening (or any evening)!
From an economical stand point a bottle of port goes a long way and as long as you keep the bottle closed, port will last a very long time (approx. six months) unlike a bottle of regular wine. Although with port there is a wide range of cost depending on what you are buying and if it is a vintage bottle. Where I live, the Victoria Tawny Port is around $15 and the other ports I keep on hand go up from there.
Various Ports I Often Keep on Hand at Home
First, let’s go over a little information about the different styles of port followed by some port and chocolate pairing tasting notes with specific pairing recommendations.
Port is a fortified wine (fortified with a grape spirit) that originated in Portugal although I often buy a version of it made here in Washington state and other countries also make a port-styled wine.
Ruby Ports are red, fresh with fruit-forward notes, while tawny ports are barrel- aged which increases the oxidation, leading them to be more brownish in color. Tawny ports tend to be more sweet and may be aged for several years. While you will often be purchasing either a ruby or tawny port there are also other styles such as reserve/vintage ports, white ports and late bottled vintage (LBV).
Port and Chocolate Pairings:
Some of these pairings are with full on craft/specialty chocolate bars and others are with bars that are a bit more widely available to give several pairing choices for wherever you are currently in your journey of chocolate discovery. Each chocolate bar mentioned was tried with several ports to see what worked and what didn’t (in my opinion).
A quick note on craft/specialty chocolate: since bean-to-bar craft/specialty chocolate flavor notes can change batch to batch and season to season these pairing combo notes may change over time. (I’ve been working on port and chocolate pairings since 2015 so some bars are no longer made and some port vintages are tough to find so I have left those pairings out). However, these suggestions, based on my research, offer a simple guide to go off of.
Whidbey’s Washington Port: Some sweetness, orange blossom honey, berry syrup.
Chocolat Bonnat 75% Hacienda El Rosario: Rich, chocolately, fudge, and a whisper of acidity.
These two combined adds brightness to the port, brings out a touch of anise, and amplifies sweetness in the port. (This may be an especially approachable combo if you’re just getting into craft/specialty chocolate because it’s a more “fudgy, chocolatey” tasting chocolate).
Chocolate Bonnat Hacienda El Rosario
Fonseca Porto Bin 27: Fruity, rich, spice, good acidity, black cherry, currant, clove with a long finish.
Justin’s Dark Mini Peanut Butter Cups (organic). When paired with the Fonseca Bin 27 there is a touch of salt, nutty, fruity, raspberry, raisin and subtle pepper.
Justin’s Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Fonseca Porto Bin 27
Barnard Griffin Syrah Port 2015: Herbal, pomegranate, spearmint, cherry and black pepper.
Original Beans Edel Weiss 40% White Chocolate: Creme anglais, custard, subtle citrus, and white pepper.
When the Original Beans white chocolate is paired with the Barnard Griffin the herbal notes go, but the port retains some spearmint, pepper and fruity notes without drowning out the white chocolate notes.
Barnard Griffin Syrah Port 2015 with Original Beans Edel Weiss
Pairing #4 & #5:
Porto Rocha Fine Ruby Port: This port has notes of black cherry, cardamom, blueberries, concord grapes and a touch of clove.
Equal Exchange 80% Extra Dark Panama (organic): Notes of vanilla, cocoa powder, coffee ground and light toast.
When paired together notes of plum and fig come forward.
Scharffen Berger 41% Extra Rich Milk Chocolate: Notes of brown butter, espresso, smoke and toffee.
When paired with the above mention Rocha Fine Ruby Port it brings out a chocolate cream egg taste and marshmallow cream.
Pairing #6 & #7:
Porto Rocha Fine Tawny Port: Mild/medium acidity, dry, some tannins, buttery, and subtle barnyard.
Alter Eco 47% Dark Velvet (organic): Notes of vanilla, cookie-like notes, cocoa, cream and bread.
Put these two together and plum, fruity and chocolately notes show up.
Rittersport 30% Alpine Milk Chocolate: Notes of cocoa, butter, cream and honey.
When paired with the Rocha Tawny notes of hazelnuts and lots of dark honey notes are present and increased fruitiness in the port itself. (When put together with the Rocha Ruby there are notes of coffee, a bit of heat and dark honey).
Quinta Infantado Ruby Porto: Notes of cherry, cherry cola, black grapes, black pepper, sun-dried raisins, jammy, cane sugar with a medium/dry mouthfeel.
Marou 72% Dong Nai: Tastes of cinnamon, cherry, chocolate mousse and white honey. (This is an example of how craft chocolate bars change from harvest season to season. This bar used to be more floral, but my current bar has lots of cinnamon notes).
Together the Quinta Port amplifies cocoa notes in the chocolate without hiding the other flavors present in the Marou bar.
Quinta Ruby Port with Marou Dong Nai
Pairing #9 & #10:
Dow’s 2011 Late Bottled Vintage Port: This port is jammy, peppery, concord grape with some sweetness present.
Francois Pralus Barre Infernale Noire : Hazelnuts, praline and almonds surrounded by 75% dark chocolate. This is a giant bar so it’s perfect to share at a party!
Put the Barre Infernale Noire with the Dow’s 2011 port and be prepared for an adult PB&J experience. Jam notes in the port intensify, the tannins decrease and a bit of pepper comes forward. (If you pair this with Victoria Tawny Port instead then notes of chocolate covered cherries and increased hazelnuts come through).
Francois Pralus Barre Infernale Noire
Dormouse Chocolate 100% Guatemala Bar: Floral, earthy, nutty, oak, buttery, tobacco and light honey.
When paired with the Dow’s 2011 the chocolate’s buttery notes are still present, not too bitter and it doesn’t mask the chocolate.
Dormouse Chocolates 100% Guatemala
Pairing #11 – #15:
Victoria Tawny Port: Notes of black cherry, berries, caramel, oak, raisin, prune and some sweetness.
Amedei Toscano Red: Lots of red fruit notes.
This pairing is good for both holidays and summer berry season since the port goes well with the fruit notes in the chocolate.
Victoria Tawny Port with Amedei Toscano Red
Stella Blue by Lillie Belle Farms 50% Milk Chocolate: This bar is made with Rogue Creamery powdered blue cheese and when paired with the Victoria Tawny Port this combos offers a salty, chocolately, cheese and sweetness combo.
Victoria Tawny Port with Lille Belle Stella Blue
Creo Chocolate 67% Brown Butter Bar heirloom Ecuador Cacao Hacienda Limon Farm: Notes of brown butter, nutty, light toast, coffee and cream.
When the Creo is paired with the Victoria Tawny Port the chocolate’s buttery notes are amplified and in the finish there is a salty toffee taste.
Creo Chocolate Brown Butter Bar
And lastly, what to have with s’mores? For a bit of fun pair Victoria Tawny Port with Theo 45% Milk Chocolate (organic) with organic graham crackers and quality marshmallows for a tasty s’mores treat.
You might be wondering what makes a bad pairing? I try to avoid pairings that cancel out the flavors of both the port and the chocolate, or that causes one item to dominate. Sometimes the alcohol comes forward too much with certain chocolates as well. I prefer pairings that let the tasty notes shine through from both items, amplify flavors and even bring out further flavors than when having just one or the other on it’s own. In the end though, as long as it is something you enjoy the taste of then you are 100% correct! Taste is subjective from person to person so this post is meant as a guideline, or nudge, to get you started down the port and chocolate path!
Let me know what your favorite pairing is!
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