5 Simple Tips to Pairing Wine with Chocolate
Can chocolate and wine be paired? Wine and cheese pairings are common, but chocolate and wine, not so much! The truth is, chocolate and wine do make an excellent pair (chocolate and wine connoisseurs may even call it a match made in heaven) because of one BIG similarity between the two – chocolate, just like wine has a complexity of flavors and textures, with the potential for subtle changes with each new batch of chocolate. Interesting, right?
So how exactly do you decide to pair your wine and chocolate?
Here are five tips to follow:
1. The wine should be sweeter than your bar of chocolate
To begin with, you should choose a wine which is sweeter than your bar of chocolate or your chocolate theme dessert. If you choose a wine which is less sweet than your chocolate, it will taste bitter. As mentioned above, since both wine and chocolate have these intense flavors, one of them has to make way for the other to reach an amicable balance. So we let the wine take a slight backseat in this case.
If you are not sure which is sweeter, you might need to indulge in some nibbling and sipping before you start enjoying the process. These sweet wine options cover a wide range of chocolate partners: fortified Port wines, Madeira, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, Grenache-driven Banyuls, late harvest wines and some sweet sparkling wines such as Italy’s delicious Brachetto d’Acqui or Moscato d’Asti with lighter flavors of chocolate.
2. Pay attention to the quality of the chocolate
To enjoy the experience, you need to give close attention to the quality of the chocolate you use for the pairing. Make sure you choose a brand with high manufacturing standards. For example, organic and single-origin chocolates (made with cocoa beans from one particular country or region) usually have a higher production standard than your average chocolate bar. Examples include Green & Black’s, Dagoba, Hotel Chocolat, Theo Chocolate, and Newman’s Own.
3. The wine and chocolate pairing should be similar in style and weight
The general rule – pair your chocolate and wine according to the darkness of the chocolate. Which translates to, the darker the chocolate, the darker the color of your wine. If you choose a light, elegant flavored chocolate, choose wine with a lighter body. Wines under 12.5% alcohol are said to be light bodied. These wines have a crisp and refreshing taste. Examples include Riesling, Italian Prosecco, and Vinho Verde.Whereas for a bittersweet chocolate choose a full-bodied wine (wines with alcohol over 13.5%). Examples of full-bodied wines include Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot, and Malbec. The reason why this works is that the darker the chocolate, the drier is its’ overall texture. But when you pair this dark chocolate with a dry, full-bodied wine, the chocolate cancels out the wine’s drier texture on the palate and allows more of the fruity texture to pass through.
4. Move from light to dark flavored chocolate or light to full bodied wine
The best way to enjoy your chocolate and wine pairing experience is, to begin with the lighter flavors at first for both wine and chocolate and work your way up towards the drier notes of dark chocolate and full bodied wines.
Therefore here is the sequence to follow, you choose a white chocolate, to begin with, pair it with a light bodied wine, move through to milk chocolate pair it with a medium bodied wine and then end with a bittersweet or dark chocolate and pair it with a full-bodied wine. This way your palate will not feel the overdrive and will be able to enjoy the subtle, and sweet sensations found both in the chocolate and the wine.
Here are some examples:
- White Chocolate: Match with Sherry, Muscat, a fruity Chardonnay, or a Moscato d’Asti.
- Milk Chocolate: Try Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, and dessert wines. Champagne is also a natural match for milk chocolate.
- Dark Chocolate: (50% to 70%): Pair with more robust wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Port.
- Bittersweet Chocolate: (70% to 100%): Pair with Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Shiraz, Orange Muscat, Port, Malbec, and Zinfandel.
5. For an easier beginning try pairing chocolate dishes with wine at first
Instead of directly beginning with a chocolate bar, you can also try and pair a chocolate dish with wine at first. It will give you an idea of how the combination works. Try pairing desserts with sweet wines or dishes which contain chocolate sauces to begin your experience!
The next time you are out shopping for wine or chocolate, and you are thinking of pairing the two, keep these five tips in mind!
Also published on Medium.