Recently, a regular customer turned friend gave us a box of Godiva chocolates from his trip to Europe. At about the same time, a supplier brought us a bottle of Niepoort Late Bottle Vintage for sampling, another customer opened a bottle of Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny Port in the shop, and a friend had a bottle of Taylor’s Fine Ruby Port he wanted to share. We often read that ports and chocolates are a match made in heaven, so it seemed the stars aligned for us to put this to the test with a tasting of 3 different ports against chocolates from a popular chocolatier.
Ports can be rather complicated with a lot of different styles, but the fortified wine most commonly found in the market at accessible prices are the Ruby, Tawny and LBV ports. Before going straight to the pairings, it is useful to briefly explain what these names mean.
Ruby ports are young ports made to be consumed early. They are typically aged for 3 years and are generally wallet friendly. As the name suggests, the port has a deep ruby colour from the grapes and exhibit fresh fruity aromas. They are very approachable in their youth and are not meant for long term cellaring. I find ruby ports to be a good starting point to learning more about ports.
On the other hand, tawny ports spend a lot more time in oak compared to ruby ports. Because of the extended time in barrels (around 6 years), tawny ports tend towards nutty flavours and caramelized prunes, figs and dates, rather than the fruity notes associated with ruby. The colour too becomes less ruby red and exhibit more of a brownish hue. Some of these ports, especially those which are older, have an oxidative note as well. Tawny ports tend to be sweeter as well. We often see Tawny labels with ages such as 10, 20 or more years old. These refer to the minimum age of the wines that were used to make the port.
Late Bottled Vintage (“LBV”) is a port that has a specific vintage year indicated on the label and has been aged between 4 and 6 years in oak before bottling and release in the market. The actual aging is determined by the port producer. Unlike the pricier vintage port (another type of port that I will not cover here), an LBV is usually ready for drinking the moment you buy it, and no special “treatment” like decanting is required to enjoy it.
GODIVA CHOCOLATES AND PORT WINE
The Godiva gift box carries an assortment of milk, white and dark chocolates that I paired against the 3 ports.
Godiva Milk Chocolate Pairing
The Godiva milk chocolate is smooth and rich with a nice creamy texture.
Taylor’s Fine Ruby Port: The Taylor’s has a much lighter profile compared to the other 2 ports. The creamy chocolate texture actually makes the Taylor’s feel more generous. On the other hand, the beautiful cherry and blackcurrant flavours of the Taylor’s complement the milk chocolate without overpowering it.
Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny Port: There is still fruit in the port but the dominant flavours are butterscotch, walnuts and strawberry jam. I find the intense port to overwhelm the milk chocolate unfortunately.
Niepoort LBV: The Niepoort straddles the Ruby and Tawny taste profile. It is fruity with cherry note but this is rounded out by a fuller body with oak tannins in evidence. It does a good enough job of pairing with the milk chocolate but not my first choice.
Godiva White Chocolate Pairing
The Godiva white chocolate is sweet and creamy. In fact, it is the sweetest of the lot as chocolate lovers know.
Taylor’s Fine Ruby Port: The sweetness of the chocolate makes the Taylor’s feel sharp and lean on the palate. The contrast is too much in my opinion to make this an enjoyable pairing.
Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny Port: The Grant Burge stands up really well to the white chocolate. The sweetness of the port matches that of the white chocolate and the slight oxidative note adds an interesting dimension to the chocolate flavour profile.
Niepoort LBV: The LBV gets along with the white chocolate but just. The flavours match but there isn’t much that will make this a standout combination. Somehow, eating the white chocolate and drinking the LBV makes me feel like I am eating the solid form or drinking the liquid form of the same thing. Nothing special yet nothing jarring at the same time.
Godiva Dark Chocolate Pairing
The Godiva dark chocolate is luscious and bitter with a high cocoa content.
Taylor’s Fine Ruby Port: The Taylor’s firm body and blackcurrant notes changes the dark chocolate profile to one akin to that of raisin chocolate. However, as the port is lighter in texture compared to the dark chocolate, it can make the port feel a little lacking.
Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny Port: The nuttiness of the tawny port combines nicely with the bitter chocolate. Imagine nutty chocolate. The sweetness of the port hides the bitterness of the chocolate, which is a bane to people who like dark chocolate for its bitterness. For myself, I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate anytime, so the tawny is a wonderful way to bring the bitterness of the chocolate down a notch for me to enjoy it.
Niepoort LBV: This is the moment where the LBV really shines. Like the tawny port, the LBV has the body weight to match up to the dark chocolate. The nuttiness again becomes the perfect foil for the chocolate. The sweetness though is tempered, so even though it is sweet, the LBV does not overpower the bitterness of the chocolate. Yet it is just enough to give the chocolate a beautiful roundness. To me, it is the perfect match that makes both the dark chocolate and LBV look better together than on their own.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many styles of ports in the market. Being familiar with the house style is important in choosing the right combination. But I believe that the notes are a good guide if you want to pair ports and chocolates. Rather than sticking strictly to my suggestions, I hope these notes help you recognize how different ports and chocolates interact with each other. Tinker with the pairings based on your own tolerance for sweetness and you too will find the right match. Check out our extensive collection of ports here. Let me know what port and chocolate combinations you have had and how they went. The more we share, the more we learn together. Have fun exploring!
Wong Peng Chung (Kenny) Founder and Chief Wine Drinker
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