Pairing Chocolate and Wine
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.