Guide to Pairing Wine with Chocolate

June 20, 2019

Guide to Pairing Wine with Chocolate

Which wines go with milk chocolate? What's the best red wine to drink with dark chocolate? Does chocolate and wine go together?  

Chocolate and wine pairing can be tricky because both contain chemicals called polyphenols which taste very bitter, (mostly flavonoids in chocolate, mostly tannins in grapes), but on the plus side, both also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial compounds.

The level of tannins (chemicals found in grape skins) affects the relative sweetness / dryness of wines, in the same way that levels of flavonoids contained in cocoa solids in chocolate create a more bitter / less sweet taste e.g. dark chocolate has 70% cocoa solids (bitter), milk chocolate 34% cocoa solids (sweeter).

So for a successful taste pairing you need to match the flavour strengths, otherwise the wine will overpower the chocolate or vice versa, making the wine taste more bitter, or the chocolate sickly sweet. Therefore, the drier / more bitter / more full bodied the wine, the stronger and more bitter tasting the chocolate needs to be (i.e. higher cocoa - dark as opposed to milk/white). 

Hints and tips for wine pairing with chocolate: 

General Tip #1:

This is the simplest option. Choose a wine that’s slightly sweeter than the chocolate. Ice wines (made from grapes that have literally frozen on the vine thereby concentrating their sugars), late harvest Reislings, moscatos or sweet red blends that won’t clash, and fortified wines like Port, Sherry and Madeira are often a safe bet. If you want the bubbly, try a Champagne doux or Moscato d’Asti (a higher-end Asti spumante).

General Tip #2:

If you’re not really into sweet or white wines, pair lighter chocolate (white, milk and low cocoa dark e.g. 55%) with lighter-bodied red wines, and stronger chocolates with more full-bodied wines e.g. if serving milk chocolate or a chocolate truffle, try a light-bodied Pinot Noir. Pair dark chocolate or an intensely flavoured chocolate dessert with an Australian Shiraz or full bodied California Zinfandel. 

Ideally when consuming or tasting wines, you want to go from light-bodied to full-bodied wines, and/or dry to sweet. When enjoying chocolate, you should go from light to dark i.e. white to milk to dark - the bitter flavonoids increase as the cocoa content increases, so the darker chocolates will ruin your palate for the lighter chocolate. If your chocolates are flavoured or filled, go by the chocolate coating (i.e. you have a selection of dark chocolate truffles and milk chocolate caramels, start with the caramels because of the 'milk chocolate' coating).

 

Red / White / Rose Wines with White chocolate

Muscat, white dessert wines (Ice wines, late-harvest sweeter Rieslings), Moscato d'Asti, slightly sweet rose e.g. White Zinfandel -  fruity with the aroma of strawberries work wonderfully with our ‘Very Berry’ range, as do fortified wines like cream sherry.

The difference between wines and 'Fortified wines' is that 'wines' only contain the alcohol that has resulted from fermentation. Fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala have had extra alcohol added to them, often in the form of a flavourless grape brandy, resulting in more of a liquer than a wine. 

Also, surprisingly (for chocolate and wine matching disbelievers) a Pinot Noir pairs quite well with white chocolate (again in particular a white chocolate with strawberries) as it delivers the sweet flavours of red cherries, strawberries, and raspberries also found in the Pinot Noir.

 


rose wine white chocolate with strawberries  
 

 

Red Wines with Milk chocolate: 

Milk chocolate is by far the more versatile chocolate option for pairing with wine, again try the lighter, fresher red wines like a Pinot noir or a young Beaujolais (not as tannic as some more medium bodied reds), a fruity Syrah, or sweeter fortified wines like Port or Madeira.

red wine - pinot noir  Robins and Sons luxury milk chocolate

 

Recommended Red Wines with Dark chocolate

Zinfandel, syrah/shiraz, Ruby port, Sherry, Cabernet Sauvignon – ideal choices for our ‘Purist’ range.

 

red wine glass with tapas  80% dark chocolate with edible gold powder

 

Matching Wine with Flavoured Chocolate or Chocolate Desserts

Below are a few of the classic chocolate flavour combinations, so if serving a chocolate based dessert rather than flavoured chocolate, simply choose whatever combination most closely resembles the dessert being served. 

Chocolate with Sea Salt

Salt increases flavours, so opt for either end of the wine spectrum e.g. sweet Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, or a Zinfandel.

white wine glass 

Chocolate with Nuts:

Madeira, tawny Port, PX or Oloroso Sherry.

Chocolate with Ginger: 

A full bodied Malbec - delightful with our decadently dark ‘Midnight Ginger’ - 80% dark chocolate topped with fiery chunks of crystalised ginger.

 

red wine glass 80% dark chocolate with ginger 

Chocolate with Berries:

Banyuls, sparkling wines, Brachetto d'Acqui, Moscato d'Asti, Ruby Port - perfect accompaniments for our ‘Fruit & Nut Clusters’.

Chocolate with Caramel:

Madeira, Tawny Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, sweet sparkling wines 

Chocolate with Mint

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Shiraz, Moscato d'Asti, or some sweet dessert-style red wines - just the ticket to savour our ‘Mint Chocolate Crackle’. 


Chocolate with Orange:

Madeira - this delicious dessert wine has lovely citrus notes which complement chocolate / orange perfectly - ideal with our succulent 'Dipped Oranges'.

madeira and dak chocolaté oranges 

 

Classic Chocolate Cake or Brownies

Madeira, Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, Shiraz

Port glass - Guide to Pairing wine with chocolate Pairing chocolate cake with wine

 

Also consider the other ingredients on the plate – if you’re dipping strawberries or garnishing with berries, find wines that match these flavour profiles.

Palate preferences vary from person to person, and a wine and chocolate partnership that works well for one may not be so favourable for another. An easy and inexpensive, ‘Do-it-Yourself’ way to experiment with wine and chocolate pairings, is to simply pick up a few half size bottles of wine from your local supermarket and a selection of chocolate bars (try simple straightforward white, milk and dark chocolate without any additional flavours at first), and mix and match to find your own personal taste preference.

  

PAIRING CHAMPAGNE WITH CHOCOLATE 

Pairing Champagne and sparkling wine with chocolate can be tricky. This typically dry bubbly can clash with white and milk chocolate and overly enhance the bitterness of dark chocolate, therefore a sweeter variation is preferable. Look for terms such as "demi-sec" or "doux" on the label e.g. Laurent- Perrier Demi-Sec Champagne. Also check out the sparkling wines from California or Italy and Spain. 

champagne glass - pairing champagne with chocolate Chocolate covered strawberries and champagne

Chocolate-dipped strawberries work best with a ‘pink’ bubbly, Italian sparkling rosé or Moscato d’Asti.

 

 

 




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