Maureen Adams is always searching for something new to delight the palates of her sweet-wine customers. In February, those wines get their chance to take center stage at her shop, The Wine Studio in Manchester, when many flock to the store in search of something to sip with their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.
Both Adams and Dan Villafranca, owner of Vino Aromas in Manchester, put wines from Uruguay in the spotlight as a sweet way to celebrate love this month. Villafranca likened one of the wines, Alcoyne, to “liquid crème brulee” because of its notes of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch. He will pair Alcoyne with chocolate fondue at a special Valentine’s Day tasting at Vino Aromas but noted that the sweet wine can be used as an ice cream topping or as a substitute for wet ingredients in a chocolate cake. Adams recommended stopping by The Wine Studio for Licor de Tannat, a red wine with “very chocolate tones.”
“You can never have too much chocolate,” Adams said.
Chocolate wines have become a trend in the world of sweet wines, Adams said, noting the cocoa-focused offerings Red Decadence and Cupcake Red Velvet, both red wines, and Choc-a-Bloc port wine. ChocoVine, a creamy red wine made with chocolate, has recently been deemed as a liqueur and is now sold only at the state liquor outlets, Adams said.
“It adds a real nice touch to the Valentine’s holiday to have chocolate and to add sweet wines to it — it just pairs up so perfectly,” Villafranca said.
Villafranca suggested his Noval Black, a “new generation” port wine, as a good fit for dark chocolate or as a sweet standalone after-dinner drink. “It’s not as thick and syrupy as other ports are,” he noted.
Villafranca suggested a couple of sweet French wines to sip on this Valentine’s Day: Je t’aime, a sparkling rosé, and Chateau Haut-Mayne, a Sauternes. Pair the Je t’aime, a dry yet creamy wine made with pinot noir grapes that Villafranca said boasts a hint of apricot, with pork for dinner. For dessert, the Chateau Haut-Mayne is a good choice for both sipping and for dipping strawberries in, Villafrance said. “It has almost the same flavor profile as an ice wine,” he said.
Royal Tokaji, a sweet Hungarian wine similar to a Sauternes, is another dessert wine available at The Wine Studio. Its hints of peach, pear, vanilla and grapefruit make it a good option for pairing with most hors d’oeuvres, chocolate and fruit, Adams said. “It’s also a good cheese-plate wine,” she said, adding that that Royal Tokaji pairs well with blue cheeses in particular.
Three Italian wines made Adams’ list of alternatives to everyday dessert wines. The Vin Santo del Chianti is an amber-colored wine that many Italians dip biscotti in, she said.
“If you get a good one, you don’t really want to dip biscotti in it and get crumbs in it, but it’s a great combination,” she said, adding that the wine often boasts hints of almond. “It’s little heavier in mouth-feel.”
Adams suggested the Bansi Rosa Regalia, a sweet Italian sparkling red wine that she said pairs well with milk chocolate, and Malvasia, a “slightly sweet and fizzy” wine that has a “little zing on the tongue” to pair with fruit and those not-too-sweet desserts, as other good options for Valentine’s Day.
“The whole problem with dessert wine … is that it has to be as sweet as what you’re eating,” Adams said. “Otherwise it tastes like water … and goes down awfully easy.”
Often a wine rack staple, cabernet sauvignon has emerged as a popular selection not only for dinner but also for dessert — especially chocolate ones, Adams said. “It doesn’t even have to be a real fruity one,” she said.