Ignore anyone who says you shouldn’t pair wine with chocolate. The same people will probably tell you that Simon and Garfunkel aren’t a perfect match. The point is, when something works it works.
Of course, like most food and wine pairings, it’s easy to get your ingredients wrong. Chocolate has a very distinct taste, which means the wines you choose must be equally memorable.
So, with this in mind, here’s a quick guide to the best wine to pair with chocolate.
Find wine and chocolate that strike the sweetest chord
If you select a glass of dry red wine randomly and pair it with a thick slab of dark chocolate, all you’ll end up with is the bitter aftertaste of regret. The high level of tannins in both the wine and chocolate clash to form an experience that is neither pleasant nor moreish.
To return to our music analogy, it’d be like asking Paul Simon to rap over Art Garfunkel’s sombre tones – after a while, you’d be begging for the sound of silence. Fortunately, the duo knew how to play to their strengths and produced some of the greatest harmonies in musical history. To find the best wine to pair with chocolate, you must strike a similar balance.
We’ve got a few ideas to get you started, but the key here is experimentation.
Wine pairing #1: Milk chocolate and Recioto della Valpolicella
The creaminess of milk chocolate makes it easier to pair with wine. You need something sweet and delicious to complement those rich, full-fat flavours. For us, the main contender is Recioto Della Valpolicella.
Recioto Della Valpolicella is a sweet red wine from a region that produces some of Italy’s best Amarones. Made from dried grapes that concentrate its sugar levels, Recioto is a natural pairing for smooth chocolate truffles and even tastes good with some dark chocolates (an ideal replacement for Port or Sauternes).
Alternative wine pairings: Brachetto d’Acqui, Rutherglen Muscat.
Wine pairing #2: Dark chocolate and Vin Santo del Chianti
Dark chocolate is a trickier customer. As we’ve discussed, the bitterness of true dark chocolate (35 per cent cocoa or more) makes it unpalatable with many of the most popular wine varieties. But don’t despair – there are plenty of wines out there waiting to bring out the light from the dark (we’ve already mentioned one).
Vin Santo del Chianti is rich in sweet flavours such as cherries, cinnamon, and nuttiness. This quality helps counteract the underlying bitterness of dark chocolate and dials down some of the more intense tannins. Wines with rich, spicy flavour profiles tend to taste even richer when paired with the right bar of dark chocolate.
Alternative wine pairings: Malbec (for ginger chocolate), Zinfandel (for cayenne chocolate), Portuguese port.
Wine #3: White chocolate and Pinot Noir
Okay, you got us – white chocolate doesn’t technically contain cocoa. But that doesn’t stop it from appearing on nearly every dessert menu imaginable. And, when it comes to finding the best wine to pair with chocolate, it’s certainly the most accommodating.
Pinot Noir might not sound like a traditional dessert wine, but trust us, it pairs with white chocolate like nothing else. The sweet fattiness of the chocolate is enough to bring out the red cherry, strawberry, and raspberry notes of the wine, lifting the bitterness of the tannins.
Alternative wine pairings: Beaujolais, ice wine, Muscat Blanc.
What else do I need to know about chocolate and wine pairings?
The wines above are a great place to start. However, if you’re looking to match your own, unique sweet tooth with specific bottles and varieties, here are a few cardinal rules:
- Light wines pair with light food – the richer the chocolate, the more full-bodied your chosen wine should be.
- Cold desserts pair better – while we’re sure you can find a wine to complement a hot chocolate pudding, the flavours won’t be as easy to identify.
- Consider the other ingredients on the plate – if you’re dipping strawberries or garnishing with cherries, find wines that match these flavour profiles.
Chocolate and wine are two of life’s greatest indulgences – so it’s worth getting them right. Follow the advice in this guide to discover new ways to intensify flavours and create an even sweeter after-dinner experience.
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our list of other surprising wine and food pairings.