Pairing wine with chocolate can be a fun and fabulous tasting experience, but selecting just the right combination can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Because chocolate contains high levels of tannins (the bitter taste imparted by the cacao bean), and different types of chocolate have varying degrees of sweetness, it's best to follow a few basic guidelines when choosing the right wine for pairing.
How To Pair Wine with Chocolate
Look for bold, dry, red wines with medium tannins to pair with dark (semisweet and bittersweet) chocolates. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the percentage of cacao in your chocolate, the bolder your choice of wine should be.
Dark chocolates often display this percentage on the label. Good wine varietals to pair with their rich flavor include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah.
Milk chocolate (the sweetest of chocolates) can pair nicely with lighter, dry reds such as Pinot Noir and Merlot, as well as with sweet sherries and young tawny ports.
Although red wines are a good choice, the most suitable wines for pairing with chocolate and chocolate desserts are sweet, fortified dessert wines.
What sets them apart is the addition of neutral grape brandy in the winemaking process. Neutral brandy stops fermentation and leaves residual sugar, resulting in a rich, sweet wine with slightly higher alcohol content.
Port wine, sherry and Madeira fall into this category and all are excellent choices for pairing with chocolate. Our personal favorite is ruby port which is lighter and fruitier than the tawny or vintage varieties.
Sparkling wines and chocolate:
Resist the urge to pair sparkling or white wines with chocolate. Champagne and a box of chocolates may sound like a winning combination, but the sweetness of the chocolate will often make sparkling and white wines, seem overly dry and almost sour.
That being said, dessert or demi-sec sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti can complement milk chocolate and lighter desserts rather nicely.
As always, when pairing any food and beverage – if you enjoy the flavor combinations, it’s a good pairing. Experiment and have fun!