Pairing Wine With Chocolate – The Basics

Harry Lambourne
2nd February 2022

If you’ve got a big sweet tooth, then I’m sure you’ve already sought out finding the perfect wine to go with your favourite chocolate. So, you may very well have encountered that finding that perfect match isn’t as easy as you’d have hoped! Indeed, pairing wine with chocolate is not always straightforward.

Many chocolates actually share flavonoids and polyphenols with red wine. These give off a bitter drying taste in the mouth. Sugar content can often play a key role when pairing wine with chocolate. An easy rule of thumb in wine pairing is that you want the wine to be sweeter than the food it is being paired with. Otherwise the wine will seem bitter by comparison. This is why dessert wines tend to have higher levels of residual sugar. However, we think there are some exceptions to this rule!

We aren’t one to shrink from a challenge. We think we’ve found a wine or two to match anyone’s chocolate preference. Even if they aren’t right for you, we will explain the logic behind our choices. This will mean you’re well equipped with the knowledge you need, for the next time you’re pairing wine with chocolate.

Pairing Wine With Chocolate - Which One Is Right For You?
Pairing Wine With Chocolate – Which One Is Right For You?

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a strong, all-encompassing, bitter-sweet flavour. The polyphenol content of chocolate comes from cocoa. Therefore, dark chocolate has the highest level of polyphenols, out of all the branches of the chocolate tree.

This explains the rich, drying bitterness that is present in chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. That’s why this round is for the fortified and dessert wines. Namely, Port and Sherry.

Port

Let’s start with the Port. Port is a fortified wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal, made through a blend of native Portuguese grapes. It’s also a top pick for pairing wine with chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

More specifically, we’re opting for Tawny Port. This style displays a great array of flavours, including dried fruit, toffee, caramel and honey. There’s also a real boozy kick to this. If you’re a fan of rum and raisin, or rich liquor chocolates, then this is the pairing for you.

Sherry

Now, our old friend Sherry. Savage Vines are big advocates of this delicious drink from Jerez in Spain. Now, as with Port, there are a variety of styles to Sherry, which can sometimes make choosing the right one a bit daunting. There are actually a number of good candidates for a Sherry, when pairing wine with chocolate. Palo Cortado and dark chocolate with orange. Amontillado and coffee, or raisin based chocolates.

However, we’re putting one ahead of the others. For your classic cocoa rich dark chocolate, we’d recommend a Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry. Pedro Ximénez sherry is made from grapes which have been sun-dried, then fortified. The end result is a gloriously dark and molasses-like syrup. This is a particularly sweet sherry, so it’ll help to take some of the bitterness out of very dark chocolate, while the chocolate in turn takes some of that syrupy sweetness out of the sherry.

Milk Chocolate

Now, milk chocolate. This poses different problems when pairing wine with chocolate. It is far sweeter. This can have that effect of really creating a bitterness to the wine we drink. However, opting for sweet dessert wines is not an easy solution. The rich and boozier tastes of these fortified wines can overpower the relatively delicate flavour of milk chocolate.

Enter, light and sweeter white wine. In particular, we’d recommend Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc. Both these wines are really wonderfully light, this will ensure that the milk chocolate isn’t overpowered. They are also sweet enough to make sure that they aren’t spoiled by the milk chocolate. The honey rich Gewurztraminer and the creamy Chenin Blanc should stand up to any milk chocolate.

Pairing wine with chocolate is not an exact science. We think these pairings for milk chocolate are good choices, but feel free to experiment. Look for light and/or sweet wines.

Maybe a Pinot Noir’s light body when mixed with milk chocolate would tickle your tastebuds? Oaked Chardonnay is big and full-bodied but could the rich notes of vanilla, caramel and butter stand up to the sweet chocolate, without overpowering it?

White Chocolate

Finally, it’s the term of white chocolate. Some claim this isn’t actually chocolate, due to the lack of cocoa powder. White chocolate is instead cocoa butter mixed with sugar and some other flavourings. It’s especially sweet, which could lead some to simply think there is not a wine out there for it. 

However, white chocolate is often paired with any number of rich tropical fruits. The heavily acidic kick of passionfruit, or pineapple, can really help break through the overtly sweet white chocolate.

With that in mind, we look to Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is deeply acidic and often possesses those tropical fruit kicks. Therefore, it fills the same role as the fresh fruit flavourings can. Pairing wine with chocolate as sweet as white chocolate is therefore perfectly achievable. Look no further than Sauvignon Blanc with a tropical edge.


Who said pairing wine with chocolate was hard? We think we’ve got something for everyone here and if you try out any of our pairings, or find a perfect pairing of your own be sure to let us know!

Maybe your sweet tooth is tingling and you’re looking to learn more about other dessert wines, or just want a perfect pudding pairing – then read our guide for dessert wine and pudding pairings here

Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list below. We are always creating new content to help other wine lovers learn about wine and we have a great selection of wines in our online wine store. Have a look around and pick yourself up something nice.

Join our mailing list to get exclusive access to our weekly wine offers

20 mixed cases of wine a week on sale at cellar door prices