Chocolate and wine may just be the most perfect and decadent combo, but be careful. Putting a mismatched pair of these two strong personalities together could lead to disaster! Following a few key tips could lead to an exquisite symphony of complementary flavors and not a no-holds barred battle for dominance over your tastebuds.
Chocolate and wine have quite a bit in common. Each come in many varieties, grown in various regions around the world, and are greatly effected by the environment and care in which they’re grown. Both the grape and the cacao bean carry the antioxidant flavonoids which impart their distinct bitterness. Flavonoids are credited with giving these treats their healthy attributes.
With so many distinctive and sometimes quite strong flavors on both sides of this potentially precarious duet. Just like pairing any other food or drinks, the key is to find complementary and even sometimes contrasting elements for the best match. Before going further, I’d suggest reading How to Taste Chocolate for a few tips on getting the most out of your chocolate experience and to start pairing like a pro.
Milk chocolate has much less cocoa than its darker cousins. Sometimes as little as 10% is really chocolate. The rest being sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids. The additional fats from the milk make this chocolate exceptionally easy to pair with a wider variety of wines and spirits.
Brachetto d’Aqui – This sweet and florid red aperitif comes from the Piedmont region of Italy. With subtle hints of strawberry, raspberry, and roses was said to be the preferred choice of gianduja di Gioan d’Laduja ‘Giovani of the Jug.’ A favored character in the Italian comedy of masks, he was rarely caught without a bottle of this sparkling rosé which matched his bubbly personality.
For an added touch, try serving this alongside Raspberry Ganache truffle covered in milk chocolate!
Port style and late harvest reds such as petit Sirah Pinot noir, and Recioto della Valpolitella definitely also fit the bill.
Recioto della Valpolicella
Try Warre’s 10-Year Otima Tawny Port with a sweet fruity flavor and aroma of figs, apricots, and prunes expertly buddies up to milk chocolate, coffee, and pecan pie!
Missing the key ingredient, cocoa powder, white chocolate is not considered by many to be truly a chocolate.It’s delicious nonetheless and, since white chocolate carries no cocoa bitterness, it is a sensational match for a much wider spectrum of wines. In fact, white chocolate is one of the few chocolates that can be paired with dry white wines!
Pinot Noir: Picture strawberries, cherries, and raspberries in cream! White chocolate is a perfect blank canvas to splash Pinot noir against. Try this if you’re still a wine and chocolate skeptic. Start with one of these…
Schiava: Is that cotton candy? Yup! This light bodied red whose name literally means “slave” comes from the Alto Adige regionand has the flavor and aromas of roses, strawberries, and cotton candy.
Chardonnay: A light ginger ganache will turn a nice buttery Chardonnay into the taste of gingerbread in your mouth. Try Kendall Jackson Vintage Reserve or Flat Rock Cellars.
Here is where we find our greatest challenge. Like I said, the more bitter the components, the more overwhelming the flavors will be on your pallet. Try a mild bodied dry red.
For smooth dark or mild dark, around 50 – 55%
Riesling, Champagne, or vintage port.
Medium Dark, around 60%
Chianti, Shiraz, Merlot, or Rhone.
Shiraz: Known for its plum, spicy blackberry, and peppery flavors Shiraz goes very well with dark chocolate. This wine also has hints of bitter chocolate, mocha, and licorice. Try pairing with truffles that have berry, orange, or coffee flavored fillings.
Extra Dark, around 70% or greater
Bordeaux, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Malbec.
Malbec: The Argentinian varietal of this grape does nicely over its cousin from Bordeaux.
When experimenting with ever darker chocolates and dryer reds, the stronger the flavors that will be contending for attention for your tastebuds.
Now, you’ve got a few ideas to try on your next date night or family gathering. If you want to take your Christmas party to another level, try offering a few selections of your favorites above with a Chocolate Tasting party!
There are so many great chocolates and wines out there just waiting for you to play matchmaker. …then consume them. If you find some more winning combinations or just want to say, “Hi!,” leave us a message below in the comments section.