You’ll see a lot of advice at this time of year about pairing wine and chocolate. You know, like drinking cabernet sauvignon with dark chocolate. In general, it’s a terrible idea to use dry wines in such a pairing (though there might be some zinfandels with enough residual sweetness to work).
A much better choice is Port or similar sweet, fortified-type wine. That would also cover, for example, California port-style wines or something like Banyuls from southern France.
I confess to a great weakness for tawny-style fortifieds. The wines are golden-brown (hence the “tawny” name) and have flavors of nuts, toffee and dried fruit. The best tawnies from the Port region of Portugal have an indication of age on the label. The wines are blends from a number of years, and the number on the bottle is really an approximation.
For me, 20 years old is the sweet spot for tawny. Older wines can be spectacular, but they can also be a little dried-out and alcoholic-tasting. At 20, a tawny is nutty and complex but still has some fruit and freshness. If you’re more budget-minded, a 10-year-old tawny can also be a good choice. One that I like is the Ramos Pinto Quinta de Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny, which is fairly spicy, with nuts, toffee and dried fig flavors. The suggested retail price is $42, but you should be able to find it for around $35.
Among 20-year-old tawnies, I really like the Graham’s, which often sells for around $50. (During a visit last fall to Graham’s in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, I tasted a 1972 Single Harvest Tawny, which was spectacular but would cost hundreds, if you could even find it.)
So consider tawny Port for Valentine’s Day this year. And bring on the almonds and hazelnuts covered in dark chocolate.