Some say it can’t be done, pairing wine with chocolate, but if you have the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a match made in heaven! Whether you are pairing a delicate white chocolate or a lively dark chocolate with wine, there are a few pairing tips to keep in mind.
Tips for Successfully Pairing Wine with Chocolate
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Rule #1, keep in mind that pairing wine and chocolate is not a straightforward pairing. It can take a bit of experimenting to find the best wine and chocolate combinations. Remember your palate impressions may be very different from those you are tasting and testing with. Try to keep the wine sweeter than the chocolate, otherwise the two can really clash raising up bitter notes instead of the smooth synergy of a well-paired union.
When pairing wines with chocolate, your best bet is to match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it will display. However when you pair this darker chocolate up with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more fruit to show through.
Similar to “formal” wine tasting, if you will be experimenting with several varities of chocolates, work from light to dark. Start with a more subtle white chocolate and end on a dark or bittersweet chocolate.
White Chocolate Wine Suggestions
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White chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for a Sherry (consider the Osborne Pedro Ximénez Sherry), for a Moscato d’Asti (try Saracco Moscato d’Asti), from Italy’s Piedmont region offers subtle, sweet bubbles, or an Orange Muscat (try Ventana Vineyard’s Muscat d’Orange for around $18). The Sherry and Moscato d’Asti will pick up the creaminess of the chocolates and the Orange Muscat will pick up any fruit tones on the scene. Another route, for pairing wine with white chocolate is going for the contrast pairing approach, this is a little riskier, but when you find a match it can be exceptional. For example, taking a wine like a Zinfandel which tends to have a heavier tannic content and often a higher alcohol level and partnering it with a creamy, buttered white chocolate can have an unusual “melding” affect. It’s like the tannins get softened out by the fat content and make for a remarkable potential for pairing.
Milk Chocolate Wine Suggestions
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Pinot Noir (you might consider Mark West Pinot Noir) or a lighter-bodied Merlot (try Hogue or Columbia Crest) will complement a bar of milk chocolate, a creamy chocolate mousse or chocolate accented cheesecake. Rieslings, Muscats (try Bonny Doon’s Muscat Vin de Glaciere or the Bonny Doon “Vin de Glaciere” Muscat) or dessert wines tend to hold up well to mild milk chocolates. Also consider a sparkling wine or Champagne for pairing with milk chocolate dipped strawberries. Last, but not least a classic milk chocolate pairing to consider is a nice Ruby Port – a very safe bet when looking for a perfect wine to accent milk chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Wine Suggestions
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Dark or bittersweet chocolates need a wine that offers a roasted, slightly robust flavor itself, with perhaps a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabs and Zinfandels have a history of perfecting the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. A Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel (try Ancient Peaks Zinfandel), Rancho Zabaco or Ridge) will more than fill your chocolate pairing expectations. Also consider a Pinot Noir or a Merlot to handle dark chocolate around the 55% cocoa mark. Banyuls, a fortified favorite from Southern France, may present the ultimate in wine and dark chocolate pairings. The full-bodied flavors often hosting their own chocolate nuances, thanks to the Grenache grapes, mirror the palate textures of dark chocolate and produce a sensational pairing synergy that’s hard to beat. Along the fortified themes, give a Tawny or Vintage Port a go to offer a well-weighted, complementary character to a dark chocolate dessert or truffle.
The Do-it-Yourself Approach to Pairing Wines and Chocolate
If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive, Do-it-Yourself way to experiment with wine and chocolate pairings, simply picking up a few bars of Green and Black’s premium chocolate is a good way to start. By taking a “mix and match” approach to finding your own personal palate preferences when it comes to pairing wine and chocolate, you’ll gain “hands-on” knowledge of which wines really complement which chocolate combinations. By opening eight bars of Green & Black’s chocolate along with a few bottles of wine we were able to take each chocolate through a series of wine pairings to see which combinations rose to the top. This is just a starting point, the combinations could be almost unlimited when you start to shake up not only varietals, but vintages and producers with the more than a dozen chocolate bars made by Green & Black’s.