Curling up with a good book (or movie), a block of chocolate and a glass (okay…ahem…bottle) of wine is never a disappointing experience. Or is it? Knowing just a little bit about how to pair wine and chocolate can turn something good into something truly orgasmic.
Despite some of the world’s leading wine snobs declaring that chocolate can never be a great match for wine, 52% of the human race would beg to differ. Some of the best girls nights in the history of the universe have involved the combination of wine and chocolate. And when you learn that wine and chocolate are actually made in a very similar way – involving fermentation through the addition of the same yeasts – then it doesn’t seem so surprising that their relationship seems so natural.
They’re even described similarly. Words like ‘body’ ‘mouth feel’ ‘aroma’ and ‘complexity’ are also applied to describe both wine and chocolate.
But even though they’re cozy bedfellows, wine and chocolate can actually fight for the same space on your palate, which can sometimes lead to a bit of a taste clash. So how do you know what goes with what?!
The basic rule of thumb is the same as any wine and food matching – contrast or complement. You can look for a wine that provides a contrast to the flavours in the chocolate, or you can find one that is complementary and brings out the existing flavours more fully. The second rule is this – there are no rules. Experiment for yourself and find the combinations you like the best!
Dark chocolate can be anything higher than about 35% cocoa solids, and can range from semi-sweet to bitter. The darker the chocolate the more intense the flavours.
What wines pair with Dark Chocolate?
Robust red wines – Because of the high fat content and full flavour profile of dark chocolate, robust and tannic red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo can work really well as the fats work to suppress the tannins while the complex flavours can match up, and offer beautiful hints of peppermint (in the case of the Cab Sav) or red fruit.
Sweet and fortified wines – Sweet and fortified wines with loads of caramel, nut and coffee flavours, like Tawny Port, Muscat, and Tokay and are amazing with dark chocolate. For the mother of all matches, a Pedro Ximenez Sherry will put you on your knees.
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar and smaller percentage of cocoa solids. This, along with the milk content, creates a milder, sweeter chocolate with less complex flavors and aromas than it’s darker cousins.
What wines pair with Milk Chocolate?
Lighter red wines – Light, bright Pinot Noirs and smooth Merlots can be excellent with Milk Chocolate, providing lots of gorgeous red fruit flavours to complement the chocolate.
Sweet wines – Again, you can bring out the Tawny Ports and Tokays for Milk Chocolate, but the lovely bit of freshness in a Late Harvest or Botrytis Semillon is also a gorgeous match and adds luscious apricot and stone fruit flavours into the mix.
If you’re a true chocolate purist, you’d already know that white chocolate isn’t really chocolate at all – rather it’s just the cocoa butter blended into meltingly sweet goodness. This means two things.
- It’s far more buttery and sweet than milk or dark chocolate
- It doesn’t have many complex flavours of it’s own, so the main thing is to match with fruity flavours to complement the buttery sweetness
What wines pair with White Chocolate?
Fruity white wines – Try a Sauvignon Blanc or an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer, or a luscious and full bodied Viognier and be ready to grab hold of a railing (or handsome man) to prevent yourself keeling over in delight.
Moscato – Particularly the intense stawberry pink ones, which makes the whole thing taste like dessert in your mouth. It’s also great with milk chocolate covered strawberries.
Is there one wine to go with every kind of chocolate?
Actually, there is! Sparkling wine! But don’t use your ultra premium, high quality bubbles – instead opt for a semi-sweet (demi-sec) or Cremant style that has a little residual sweetness.
What wine do you like to pair with chocolate?