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February 11, 2015
Think Outside the Box [of Chocolates] by Erin Drain
It’s about to be Valentine’s Day again in a couple days, and as you rush to find small tokens of love and affection at the eleventh hour, one perennial standby is chocolate. Sweets for the sweetheart, although a little bit of a softball, are regardless almost universally loved. (But will never make up for forgetting to reserve a romantic table for two at your favorite restaurant, so hop to it if you still haven’t done so, and godspeed!)
Popular romantic lore dictates that the aforementioned emergency chocolates should be slowly consumed with a bottle of red wine, ideally in front of a fireplace somewhere like Door County or, better, Vail. But let’s face it: for many of us, Valentine’s Day is a working holiday, and what’s worse, the marriage of dry red wine and chocolate is actually rather dismal territory. While not a capital offense, it’s nonetheless pretty unpleasant to distract the palate from a perfectly good Pomerol by out-sweeting it with bonbons. Likewise, best keep the dusty, drying tannin of Barolo far away from a pricy bar of Vosges. There are far better matches for chocolate, and more creative ideas, at that. Don’t fight with your truffles this Valentine’s Day: get on trend and break out a bottle of sherry.
Not just any sherry, though! The man for the job is our good friend, Pedro Ximenez. PX, as he’s otherwise known, is a light-skinned, neutral grape that’s not terribly exciting on its own, but for this is the perfect blank slate for D.O. Jerez’s wondrous gift: the transformative power of terroir, time, and oxygen. The ‘El Candado’ bottling from grand dame sherry house Valdespino averages ten to twelve years in barrel, oxidizing slowly after being pressed from grapes dried to raisins in the intense Andalusian sun. And while this is a rather sweet wine at nearly 500 grams/liter of residual sugar, the freshness imparted from Jerez’s chalky albariza soils and its extended aging keep the wine nuanced, showing chocolate, figs and nut flavors, but also a slightly savory and smoky finish. A candado in Spanish is a padlock; this historical wine was so beloved and special, it was - and still is- kept under lock and key.