Chocolate comes in many varieties much like wine. Many people can’t imagine pairing chocolate with a fine wine, but the complexity and differences of both can make for an exciting, flavorful match.
Choosing your pairs
It’s important to remember that most wine-pairing guidelines are just that… guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules. You may find that while you prefer dark chocolate with a nutty, roasty Cabernet, your equally wine- or food-savvy friend may go for a vintage Port. But if you’re a wine and chocolate-pairing novice, follow these quick tips to match your favorite decadence with just the right wine.
White chocolate pairings
White chocolate is mellow and buttery. Its flavor makes it ideal for softer wines like Sherry or an Orange Muscat. Some people also like it with a light (often white) Zinfandel.
Sherry increases the creaminess of white chocolate, while Orange Muscat picks up any light fruit tones that may be present in some white chocolates (depending on the maker). Zinfandel is actually a contrasting flavor because of its heavy tannin content, but some tasters appreciate the dynamic flavors. Overall white chocolates usually go best with dessert wines.
The creaminess of milk chocolate pairs with a Ruby Port, Pinot Noir or light-bodied Merlot (or other light-bodied, light-flavored wines). Dessert wines (Rieslings, Muscats, etc.) may also be a good complement. These types of wines pair well with milk chocolate because the mild tannin levels underscore the creamy flavor without overpowering it.
Dark or intense dark chocolate
Dark or bittersweet chocolate pairs with a variety of wines and often make some of the most interesting pairings. Since they’re often more complex themselves, they usually require a more complex wine to accompany them.
Look for a wine that’s a little more robust (maybe even a roast-y or nutty flavor). In fact, many wines, especially Cabernets and Zinfandels, often have their own hint of chocolate flavor. Try a robust Pinot Noir or full-bodied Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Tawny or Vintage Port.
Wine & chocolate tasting
The best way to find out your favorite chocolate and wine combination is trial and error. Make it fun by hosting a chocolate and wine tasting with some of your friends. Just buy a selection of wines and fine chocolates and invite everyone to taste (starting with the lightest flavors first) and choose their favorites.