Which wines go with milk chocolate? What's the best red wine to drink with dark chocolate? Do 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.
Red wines can be dry, as not only are the tannins from the grape skins bitter but they’re also astringent, and with chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa solids (less room for sugar), and the more bitter the taste. However, if you stick to a few golden rules, you can't go too far wrong.
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).
Recommended Red / White / Rose Wines with White chocolate
Muscat, white dessert wines (Ice wines, late-harvest sweeter Rieslings), fortified wines like cream sherry, Moscato d'Asti, a slightly sweet rose e.g. White Zinfandel - fruity with the aroma of strawberries, both of which work wonderfully with our ‘Very Berry’ range. Also, surprisingly (for chocolate and wine matching disbelievers) a Pinot Noir - the white chocolate delivers the sweet flavours of red cherries, strawberries, and raspberries also found in the Pinot Noir.
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.
Zinfandel, syrah/shiraz, Ruby port, Sherry, Cabernet Sauvignon – ideal choices for our ‘Purist’ range.
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.
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.
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'.
Classic Chocolate Cake: Madeira, Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, Shiraz
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 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.
Chocolate-dipped strawberries work best with a ‘pink’ bubbly, Italian sparkling rosé or Moscato d’Asti.