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Pairing Chocolate and Wine

Everybody loves the idea of pairing chocolate and wine, and with good reason. But the flavors of chocolate and wine aren’t always that compatible. And the culprit is the chocolate.
Chocolate actually has very intense flavors—it’s chocolaty, of course, but it’s often simultaneously sweet, bitter, acidic and fruity. That means that a wine, especially a dry table wine as opposed to a sweet dessert wine, needs to be similarly intense if it’s going to pair well with chocolate. A light red or a white wine won’t taste like anything after a bite of a good quality chocolate bar. Instead, look for fruity, intense wines—say, Zinfandels or rich red blends from California, like the juicy 2004 Wild Bunch California Red ($10).

And when you’re thinking about the chocolate, one recent trend that’s worth following is the explosion of organic and single-origin chocolates. Some of the names to look for are Green & Black’s, Hershey’s Cacao Reserve, Dagoba (also owned by Hershey), Hotel Chocolat, Theo Chocolate, and Newman’s Own.

Here are four other good tips for pairing chocolate and wine:

  • Chocolate is getting back to its fun roots with products like Dale & Thomas’s chocolate-covered popcorn and Pop Stop chocolate bars, which have crunchy kernels inside. Pair these with a wine that’s equally fun, and also goes great with chocolate—Banfi’s Rosa Regale ($20). This Italian sparkling wine is lightly sweet with appealing raspberry fruit notes, and goes great with chocolate of all types.
  • Chocolate is actually very easy to pair with wine when it’s an ingredient in a dish. Chef Louis Lambert’s grilled steaks with ancho-chile mole sauce use chopped Mexican chocolate in the sauce, giving it depth, a hint of chocolate flavor, and a faint touch of sweetness. The flavor is so rich it’s a natural partner to a robust red like the 2004 Montevina Amador County Syrah ($10)
  • When it comes to desserts—especially superrich, decadent, chocolate desserts—don’t even try to pair them with a table wine. They’re much too sweet. Instead, pour a sweet dessert wine. Ruby port, which is sweet and full of berry flavors but is also firm and powerful, is a classic match for chocolate. For instance, pour the Dow’s Ruby Port ($12.50) with chocolatier Michael Recchiuti’s insanely delicious Quadruple Chocolate Brownies, or F&W test kitchen’s silky Chocolate Cream Pie.
  • One big trend among high-end chocolatiers has been filling chocolates with delicious but totally unexpected ingredients. The Valentine’s day “Legendary Lovers” box ($27/12 pieces) from Garrison Confections includes chocolates filled with ingredients like prickly pear, guava, Russian tea, and—appropriately—passion fruit, among others. To pair wine with this, go for the chocolate-pairing secret weapon: Madeira. It isn’t just some strange sweet wine your grandmother used to drink—good Madeira, like the Blandy’s Five Year Old Malmsey ($20) is complex and delicious, with citrus and caramel notes and tangy acidity. It’s possibly the ultimate wine for pairing with chocolate.

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