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!
Yet, Easter is on the way so whether you’ve got an expensive artisan egg that’s just for you, or you’ll be sneaking the kids Crème Eggs, this article is for you. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We aren’t just recommending any Chenin Blanc when pairing wine with chocolate though. Look for sweet Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. These are heralded as some of the best dessert wines in the world. It’s easy to see why once you’ve had a sip of one of them. They possess such a powerful sweetness, while balancing really delicate fresh fruit flavours. They’re like caramel and a crisp, fresh apple.
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?
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 at the thought of pairing wine with chocolate 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.
If you’d simply just like to learn more about wine from the comfort of your own home, be sure to check out our online blog and sign up to our mailing list. We’re always looking to teach people about different regions, grape varieties and producers. Beyond that, you can expect to find a whole host of playlists, cocktail cards and recipe cards packed full of wine pairing ideas. There might even be some special offers along the way so make sure that you don’t miss out!
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