Pairing Wines and Chocolate

By Stacy Slinkard, About.com Guide

Some say it can’t be done, pairing wine with chocolate, but if you have the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a match made in heaven! Whether you are pairing a delicate white chocolate or a lively dark chocolate with wine, there are a few pairing tips to keep in mind.

Tips for Successfully Pairings Wines with Chocolate

Rule #1, typically the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the chocolate you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may quickly veer towards bitter or sour.

When pairing wines with chocolate, your best bet is to match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel.

Similar to “formal” wine tasting, if you will be experimenting with several varieties of chocolates, work from light to dark. Start with a more subtle white chocolate and end on a dark or bittersweet chocolate.

White Chocolate Wine Suggestions

White chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for a Sherry (consider the Osborne Pedro Ximénez Sherry $20), for a Moscato d’Asti (try Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2006, $13), from Italy’s Piedmont region offers subtle, sweet bubbles, or an Orange Muscat (try Ventana Vineyard’s Muscat d’Orange for $18). The Sherry and Moscato d’Asti will pick up the creaminess of the chocolates and the Orange Muscat will pick up any fruit tones on the scene. Another route, for pairing wine with white chocolate is going for the contrast pairing approach, this is a little riskier, but when you find a match it can be exceptional. For example, taking a wine like a Zinfandel which tends to have a heavier tannic content and often a higher alcohol level and partnering it with a creamy, buttered white chocolate can have an unusual “melding” affect. It’s like the tannins get softened out by the fat content and make for a remarkable potential for pairing.

Milk Chocolate Wine Suggestions

Pinot Noir (you might consider Mark West Pinot Noir $10) or a lighter-bodied Merlot (try Hogue or Columbia Crest) will complement a bar of milk chocolate, a creamy chocolate mousse or chocolate accented cheesecake. Rieslings, Muscats (try Bonny Doon’s Muscat Vin de Glaciere or the Bonny Doon “Vin de Glaciere” Muscat for $15) or dessert wines tend to hold up well to mild milk chocolates. Also consider a sparkling wine or Champagne for pairing with milk chocolate dipped strawberries. Last, but not least a classic milk chocolate pairing to consider is a nice Ruby Port – a very safe bet when looking for a perfect wine to accent milk chocolate.

To read the rest of this article, please visit:Pairing Wines & Chocolate

Also, be sure you visit Custom wine labels to get your own personalized wine labels for your special event!

Wine Kits and Labels

Home wine making is considered an artistic, creative hobby and is enjoyed by a large number of today’s society.

This is partially because both kits and ingredients are inexpensive. However, if you’re looking to save money you can always create your own kit from readily available products. Here are the various items you’ll need to purchase in order to build your own wine making kit.

1)      Purchase a large jug of bottled water, a 5 to 7 gallon size. This will become your fermenting vessel.

2)      You should try to buy a large amount of unsweetened, white grape juice frozen concentrate. You’re looking for enough to make four gallons of juice.

3)      A tube of clear silicone caulking and 2 three foot lengths of aquarium tubing, one for your airlock, the other for siphoning off your home brew.

4)      The only thing you will need to purchase once you have your kit ready is wine yeast. While bread yeast in readily available in a pinch, wine yeast is highly recommended as it tend to make a far superior wine.

When you get home, remove the lid from the water jug. Place a dishtowel or other cloth over the jug opening. Drill a hole in the center of the jug that will allow you to insert one end of the tubing snugly. You want to keep the hole as close as possible to the diameter of the tubing.

Insert the tubing until you have at least two to three inches inside the cap. Apply silicone around the tubing on the inside and outside of the cap and let dry overnight. You have now made your airlock and bung.

Now that you have your brewing equipment ready to go you can begin making wine. Directions can be found here.

Once your wine is finished you can now think about branding and labeling.

Many wine bottles have two labels, the front label (which gives the name of the wine and is meant to grab the consumer’s attention), and the back label (which can include the more useful information, like total acidity and pH level). A variety of uniquely shaped wine bottle labels and hang tags designed to make your wine perfect for holiday get-togethers, wedding gifts and other special occasions can be found at Labels on the Fly.

Wine Bottle Ideas – 4 Wine Bottling Tips

So you’ve decided to invest in the world-wide trend of home wine making. And why not? Owning your own micro-winery equipment is cost effective and the actual hobby is fun and allows for lots of experimentation.  That, and it’s an opportunity to produce one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages.

Below are some tips for wine bottling that will help you take what you’ve produced and turn it into a full-on finished product.

1)      What type of bottle should you use?

There are a surprising number of different wine bottles to choose from, and you need to keep in mind what will be the best style and size for your wine. You should also consider whether or not your wine will be fermented before being placed into the bottle or afterward. Having said that, bottles can range in shape and size from narrow and tall (for Mosel and Alsace wines), to tall with sloping shoulders (usually used for Bugundies and Rhone varieties of wine), to thick-walled with sloping shoulders (most commonly used for sparkling wines and champagne). Most wine bottles come in brown (Rhine or Alsace), clear (used for sweet wines and white wines), dark green (red wines), and light green (dry white wines). There are no strict rules to bottling your wine – in fact many wineries experiment with color, shape and style to make their wines stand out- but, as stated earlier, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to bottling wine so make sure to research thoroughly before deciding on what type of bottle to use.

2)      Cork vs. Crown-cap

Deciding on whether or not to use a cork or a crown-cap depends mostly on two things; the style you’re going for, and what kind of impression you want to make. Wine corks can be made of either a single piece of cork, or composed of particles, as in champagne corks. The study “Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures,” commissioned by cork manufacturer Amorim and made public in December 2008, concluded that cork is the most environmentally responsible stopper.

However, a 2005 closure study showed that 45% of corks did not prevent gas leakage during pressure testing both from the sides of the cork as well as through the cork body itself. The majority of non-sparkling wine production now uses these caps as a cork alternative as it’s much cheaper. So, again, it all comes down to opinion. Whether you want to go with a more environmentally friendly cork that’s got that old-fashioned, traditional style to it, or the more practical crown-cap that’s slightly more reliable but less safe for the earth, well, it’s up to you. It’s the wine inside the bottle, not the cork plugging it, that counts.

3)      Labels and hang tags?

After you’ve chosen your bottle and bottle-stopper, it’s time to start thinking about packaging and labeling. A label is very crucial as it shows the type of wine and date of the wine (two things you’re customer will be interested in knowing). It also can help show your specific winery style.

Wine labels are often very affordable and can come in a variety of shapes and materials including transparent adhesive paper, foil paper, and top grade paper. If you want to avoid hand-labeling every bottle you produce, try going with the simpler, more decorative hang tag. A wide variety of expertly designed, customizable wine labels and hang tags can be found at Labels on the Fly.

4)      Where will it be stored when you’re done?

Most wines should be stored in a dark area as UV rays can cause wines to become ‘light struck’ and pick up an unpleasant smell. Darker bottles are better protected from this, but not enough to be stored in direct sunlight. If you’ve decided to cork your bottle you should store it on its side, as bottles kept upright for too long will dry out and spoil.

Make sure the temperature in the place of storage is kept constant – it should never go over 75 degrees F (24 degrees C).

Letting the temp drop below 54 degrees F won’t hurt it, mind you – it will just slow down the aging process. It’s also a good idea not to move the wine. Try to keep it isolated and make sure to store for an appropriate amount of time. And remember to adjust the temperature before serving.

There you have it! Bottling wine, while slightly less simple than switching the channel to the evening news, can be a fun way to make your wine more self-styled and personalized.

Good luck on bottling your new batch of home-made wine, and stay tuned for more wine making tips and recipes!

Wine Bottle Terrariums

If you make or enjoy wine chances are you’ve got a large number of empty bottles lying around the house, and while there are a variety of different things that can be done with empty wine bottles (recycling, candle-making, bird-feeder construction to name just a few), one way to recycle an empty wine is to turn it into a miniature terrarium.

That’s right. A terrarium.

Terrariums are small containers that provide a high humidity environment for plants that might not otherwise survive very long in your home.

A wine bottle terrarium can make a great gift to friends and family members, and is especially well received as a birthday gift or, even better, a winter holiday gift. Those who won’t be expecting to see such lovely, thriving plant-life in the colder months will be absolutely thrilled to receive such a kind, personalized gift.

The process of making a wine-bottle terrarium is fairly simple and quite cheap, especially since you’re starting out with your own empty wine bottle. Here are the items you’ll need to make your wine bottle terrarium:

  • Glass container (in this case, a wine bottle, although jars and even light bulbs can be used)
  • Activated charcoal (the kind sold at pet shops for aquariums)
  • Pea gravel
  • Potting soil
  • Moisture-loving plants
  • Plant life (you can choose plants of various heights and colors, but they ought to have the same needs and conditions so you can care for them all simultaneously. Moss is a great choice for beginners and is easily found in any backyard or wooded environment.)

Each of the materials should be relatively easy to find and affordable prices. Once you have your materials, you can begin setting up your terrarium.

STEPS

1)      First off, begin by washing your container in hot, soapy water and drying it afterward.

2)      Line the bottom with a thin layer of gravel for drainage.

3)      Place a ½ inch layer of activated charcoal onto the gravel. The charcoal will filter the air.

4)      Add around 1-½ inches of moist, high quality growing medium rich in organic material into the mix

5)      You’re now ready to insert your plants. Trim off any damaged parts, place the plants in the soil using long tweezers or a stick with a wire loop attached to the end, and gently tamp down the soil. Try to keep the leaves from touching the glass to prevent rot.

6)      Mist the inside of your terrarium and let it sit for a day before misting again. Once the water has evaporated off the leaves, you can cover the container.

7)      Make you to stick it in the sun so your plants will thrive.

And that’s all there is to it! You can keep several terrariums in your home or in your office at work, or you can choose to give them away as gifts – even sell them at your local Farmer’s Market. If you do decide to sell or give them away don’t forget to label your products with custom hang tags. A wide variety of excellent, custom wine bottle hang tags and labels can be found at Labels on the Fly.

Stay tuned for more fun wine bottle facts and tips from Custom Wine and Beer Bottles.

The Right Wine for Any Occasion

If you’re just getting into home wine making odds are you’re apt to want to start learning about what wine goes best with what type of food, and which wine is right for certain occasions.

While there are really no real rules when choosing the best wine for each occasion, you’ll probably want to take into consideration who’s coming to the event (certain people have certain wine preferences) and, if there’s food at the event, what’s being served (pairing food and wine together can be fairly easy if you have a rough idea of what you’re doing).

Wine is meant to complement certain occasions and dishes.

With that having been said, here are a few ‘soft’ guidelines to help you choose the right wine for the right occasion.

  • White wines are often used for starting off an evening on the right foot, and are also wonderful for toasts and special occasions.
  • Champagne is a regular fixture at weddings and is indispensable at such occasions.
  • Red wines are great for main courses and are typically served during the latter part of any occasion. Their full bodied nature makes them a great complement to hearty meals.
  • Pinot Noir is not as heralded as Merlot or Cabernet, so many people may not recognize its unique blend, but it goes well with creamy sauces.
  • Shiraz is a fiery complement to spicy dishes, and its taste can enhance the flavor in barbecues and roasts.
  • Chianti is the best wine to accompany tomato dishes and poultry.

When choosing what wine you want to bring to a special occasion you should also consider how it will be presented during the occasion.

For example, will you be branding your bottle for the occasion? If so Labels on the Fly offers a wide variety of decorative, customizable holiday, wedding, and birthday themed wine labels and hang tags.

Sometimes the look of the bottle can represent whats inside it.

Above all, though, if your instinct cries out for a special type of wine for a special occasion go with it. Your instinct is usually right, especially if its in an area you’re experienced in.

Good luck on picking your wine, and stay tuned for more wine making tips and recipes!

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