Cincinnati, Ohio-based wine pro Kevin Hart pairs Brunello at Sotto and Jura at Boca, wines on offer at two of the city's top eateries. But he's also behind online wine shop and consulting service Hart & Cru, an outfit dedicated to small production American and European bottles. Because Girl Scout cookies don't just pair with milk, below, Hart schemes ideal wines to match.
Q: It's just about time for Girl Scout cookies. Can you suggest some wines that would pair with different cookies?
Hart: I think, in life, everyone has a few things that bring them true joy. Some of these are the nostalgic things from childhood that transport you back to that carefree time. February comes around and you go walking into the grocery store on a Sunday morning and there they are ... Girl Scout cookies. I forget about them until that exact moment and I realize my New Year's resolution has been completely destroyed. But that’s not all bad. At least the culprit is a tribe of young girls, following a tradition, learning to be entrepreneurs by selling cookies. I want them to succeed, I buy 15 boxes, I tell myself, I am going to give these to friends. There is pure joy in this moment of impulse buying.
Many people think chocolate and red wine go together. I whole-heartedly disagree ...
Beyond my daily routine of sleep, wake up, eat, work, eat some more, work, eat some more, my routine now includes another habitual step ... I constantly ask myself, as every bite of food passes my lips: What the hell would I drink with this? This is one of my lifelong pursuits; to consider wine parings for practically everything. 'Tis the season, so I’m thinking: What do I drink with Girl Scout cookies? The wines below are ones that I cherish. They are produced in an honest manner with little intervention and represent the finest examples of products that are the opposite of the "fast food" commodity wines that plague stores across America.
So, as I put on a few pounds, I’ll share my thoughts on the true grape juice to sip with your indulgence.
Many people think chocolate and red wine go together. I whole-heartedly disagree because the sugars in the chocolate don’t really play well with the wine's tannins. Thin Mints need a bit of sweetness and also something to balance out the mint's herbaceous notes. This is where Chinato comes in: it’s a sort of crazy after dinner drink made from the grape Nebbiolo found primarily in northwestern Italy. Chinato is produced by adding numerous herbs and flower extracts to the grapes during the winemaking process. The herbs and flowers are aromatized, a fancy word for the idea of bringing a lot of fragrance and flavor to the wine. It’s also fortified with spirits, like port, and the makers often add cane sugar to enhance the residual sugars. These properties make for a stellar pairing and will be unlike anything most people have tried.
Try: A & G Fantino, Barolo Chinato, Piedmont, Italy, NV ($44)
Vin Santo is one of the wines that stirs the passion of many of the great Italian producers. It is produced in very low volumes because it takes years to make, and rarely offers a profitable sale. However, these wines can be cellared for 50 plus years! When made properly, the toffee notes, cashew oil, and flavors of slow cooked sugars are balanced with acidity (a true stroke of genius that comes only from the best winemakers). This pairs well with the Samoas because the flavors of both mirror one another, but the wine's acidity cuts through the wetness perfectly. Paolo de Marchi, who makes this wine, is truly a maestro or, as Wine Spectator named him, "The Dean of Chianti." Any wines he puts his hand to are recognized around the world.
Try: Isole e Olena, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, 2005 ($62/375ml)
Cazes' Rivesaltes Ambre comes from the hills on the southern coast of France (closer to the Spanish boarder than the Italian). It's rich in texture and sweetness with flavors of almonds and oranges, which play nicely off the Tagalong's chocolate shell. This wine is made form grenache blanc grapes (which deliver a fruity component), and is aged for seven years in old oak casks, which brings out the nutty flavors. This is an all all-time flavor duo favorite: think peanut butter and jelly.
Try: Cazes, Rivesaltes Ambre, Languedoc-Roussillon, France 1995 ($40)
Madeira is not just for your cigar-smoking grandfather. These wines are special and incredibly interesting. The Boston Bual Maderia is lightly sweet, with an incredible acidity that makes the wine feel beautifully balanced while drinking. It also tastes slightly smoky with citrus notes and cooking herbs. This goes well with the roasted nut flavor of the Do-Si-Do. The paring deepens all of these flavors and gives another dimension to the cookie. A bonus: These wines have an incredible shelf life, once you pull the cork, you can keep the bottle around far longer than your cookies will last.
Try: Rare Wine Company Historic Series, Boston Bual, Madeira, Portugal ($34)
Shortbread makes me think of Brits at teatime, an hour when I want bone-dry Champagne. Actually I crave Champagne 99 percent of the time, but that’s for another story. Aurelian Laherte makes Champagne with focus and nerve (producing a half dozen labels from only 25 acres). For this coupling, it is all about the yeasty tones coming together from both the cookie and the wine. Also, the thirst born from the cookie’s flaky goodness is completely quenched by this well-crafted wine from a true artist-farmer.
Try: Laherte Frères, Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France, NV ($42)
Have a wine-related question you'd like answered? Hit the comments.