Kelly Black is a professional writer from Pennsylvania. If she's not at her computer writing, you can find her hanging out with her family or sipping wine on her back deck.
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Wine and chocolate.
You love them both. You crave them both.
You’re dying to pair them up, but you’ve Googled it and you’re stumped. You’ve seen how tricky it can be to take two things that are each so epic on their own and make them work together.
We don’t blame you. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there. The last thing you want is to spend your money on some beautiful chocolate and some gorgeous wine and find out that the two you picked probably shouldn’t even be in the same room together, let alone share space on your palate.
Stop the search. We have a simple, easy-to-follow guide to the basics of pairing wine and chocolate together – with a few fun tips on throwing a great wine and chocolate party.
Generally, wine is best when it is either complementary or congruent to the food with which it is paired. Complementary is when the wine shares just a few flavors or aromas with a food, and congruent is when it shares many of those same tastes and scents.
When you’re pairing chocolate and wine, many wine connoisseurs agree that sticking with congruent flavors and colors makes for the best combination of wine and chocolate. And to give you a good start, here are the three basic kinds of chocolate – white, milk, and dark – along with one type of wine with which it pairs well.
White chocolate & Riesling
Rieslings can run the gamut from dry to sweet. We recommend a slightly sweeter Riesling to go with white chocolate. The white chocolate has a less aggressive flavor than darker chocolates, so it goes well with the lighter, palate-refreshing, crisp sweetness of the Riesling.
Milk chocolate & Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir has beautifully strong notes of fresh fruit, but has a more medium body than other reds. The smoothness of the milk chocolate, which has a stronger flavor than white but is less bold than dark, pairs nicely and congruently with those notes in the Pinot Noir.
Dark chocolate & Merlot
Before you pair dark chocolate with wine, you’ll want to check the chocolate’s cacao percentage. The higher the percentage, the stronger the flavor – and the stronger the wine needs to be. Since a lot of dark chocolates fall at 70% cacao or below, we recommend a 2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot. It’s full-bodied but isn’t as strong as a Cabernet Sauvignon so the flavors of the wine and chocolate will work together on your palate rather than compete for attention.
Now that you have the basics, we want to shake it up a little bit for you. We all know that some of the best chocolate isn’t just a plain brown bar. There are so many great and different flavors and textures chocolate can have, and those can lead to some pretty exciting wine pairings.
If you want to shake up your pairing party a little bit try one – or more! – of these outside-of-the-box pairings.
Dark chocolate covered cherries & Cabernet Sauvignon
At first glance, these two might seem too strong on their own to go together well. In fact, that’s part of the reason that they do work together so well. Both have bold and full-bodied flavors that can stand up to other bold flavors. Both have dark fruits in them and both are structurally firm in their composition. Try the 2014 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet with your favorite dark chocolate covered cherry and you won’t be disappointed.
Peanut butter cups & Port
Matching wine with peanut butter looks tricky, but Port is a great match. It has nutty notes in it that play off of the peanut butter in the cups. The Port also has a slight sweetness to it as well. Since most peanut butter cups are more peanut butter than chocolate, the hint of sweet in the Port pairs nicely with the hint of sweet from the chocolate
Chocolate ice cream & Pinot Noir
We know – chocolate ice cream doesn’t keep with the candy theme we have going here. But if you want to get a little crazy, we recommend trying this uncommon pairing. The fruity aroma and smooth texture of the Pinot Noir pairs surprisingly well with the chocolate flavor and creamy texture of the ice cream.
When you’re comfortable with the flavors and combinations that we’ve given you, you’ll be ready to use them as a base and start to experiment with your own pairings. Here are some tips to guide you.
Match the sweetness in the wine with the sweetness in the chocolate
We mentioned at the start of this post how it works in your favor to stick with congruent flavor pairings instead of complementary when it comes to wine and chocolate. While there are some complementary pairings that work well, it will be easier to find and match congruent flavors as you’re first starting to experiment.
Match the color tone of the chocolate to the color tone of the wine
A good rule of thumb is that if you have light-colored chocolate, you’ll want light-colored wine to go with it. Likewise, dark-colored chocolate goes better with dark-colored wine. The reason for this is tannins, the substance in food and drinks that gives them a bitter flavor and leaves your mouth feeling slightly dry.
Tannins are found in both chocolate and wine. The darker the color of either, the more tannins in each. The lighter the color, the fewer tannins there are. As we explained above, sticking with a similar amount of tannins in each makes for a good pairing.
Spring for the good chocolate
We all love a good candy-coated bit of chocolate, but keep those in your desk drawer for an afternoon pick-up. When you’re pairing wine with chocolate, you want to get the good stuff. Choose a chocolate with a creamy and luscious texture, not crumbly and drier like less expensive chocolate can be. The better the texture, the better the wine and chocolate will taste together.
Here are some simple tips to make your tasting party the best it can be.
Wine and chocolate may seem like a complicated coupling, but they don’t have to be. Follow our guide and you’ll find that they go together even better than you dreamed possible.