One of the nice things about working with chocolate for so many events and activities is that there is never a shortage of chocolate in my house. It is piled up in boxes, tucked away in drawers, sitting out in candy bowls, or even just scattered in random places. So it happens that when a friend should stop by for an impromptu visit with a bottle of wine, it is rather easy to also hold an impromptu lesson in wine and chocolate pairing.
Chocolate is an excellent food to pair with wine. They are both organic products (in the “from the earth” sense, not the certified sense). They both have elements that stimulate the various tasting areas of the tongue (sweet, acidic, salty, bitter); and they are both available in endless varieties.
Additionally, both are seen as something of a hedonistic treat, yet are far healthier for you than most people would imagine – especially from products that provide such pleasure. For those that have never experimented with pairing wine and chocolate before, I’ve put together a few simple guidelines and some pairing suggestions.
The fun of doing a pairing is that everyone’s palette’s are different, and will therefore have different reactions and reflections upon each tasting. In general when I look to pair wine and chocolate, a good rule of thumb to follow is to match the relative heaviness and concentration of the wine with the same elements of the chocolate.
When doing pairings, it is best to taste and evaluate a sip of the wine on its own first. Then, take a bite of the chocolate, chewing it slightly before letting it melt. Finally, after going back to the wine and “washing it down,” you can reflect on how the two intermingle. How has the wine’s flavor changed after eating the chocolate?
The most important thing when doing any pairings in succession is to always start with the lighter pairings, then move to the heavier, so as not to overwhelm your palette.
Besides that, enjoy and have fun!
The following are some of my favorite chocolate and wine pairings:
White sparkling wine with white chocolate:
This is especially effective with Champagne, but some more cost-effective alternatives include Cava or Prosecco. This is often the most surprising pairing – people do not expect dry wine to pair so well with sweet chocolate. However, because there are no cocoa solids in white chocolate, its smoothness and creaminess pair well with the crispness and full body of the wine.
Pinot Noir and a sweet milk chocolate:
While a simple milk chocolate bar works in this case, a Perugina Baci or a Lindor Truffle also makes for a great pairing with this delicious, low-alcohol wine. Brachetto can also work, but can be harder to find cheaply than some other wines – it’s usually between $20-$25. An Adesso ($12-$13) could also work, as well as a Sparkling Lambrusco, which is typically less expensive.
Cabernet Savignon and a high-cocoa-content dark chocolate (at least 70%):
This is the richest of the pairings here. Both items are very full flavored, and need to be to balance each other out. A decent California Zinfandel should run about $13-$15. Tasting chocolate with a high cocoa content is a lot like tasting wine – there can be aromas and flavors that may not typically be associated with the types of chocolate people are accustomed to. Of the three tastings listed here, this one is the most advanced and typically offers the most to an enthusiastic participant. Shiraz, Sirah, or a merlot (use slightly lower cocoa content) are good medium to full bodied red wines that also pair well with darker chocolate.