How to Pair Wine with Chocolate
Some say that chocolate and wine just don't mix, but we beg to differ. If you know how to pair the right type of chocolate with the right type of wine, thus enhancing the flavors of both, you know that this combination is delightfully perfect. And if you think that nothing is more decadent than a fantastic chocolate dessert, we think you'll find that those chocolatey treats are even better when enjoyed alongside a great glass of wine. To be sure you match up these two favorites in a way that benefits both, we have five tips to help you pair wine with chocolate.
Chocolate has a natural bitterness. The darker the chocolate, the more bitter it is because of the higher concentration of cacao and lower sweetness levels. As you pick chocolates to pair with wine, keep in mind that any chocolate over 80 percent cacao will have a bitter taste that will clash with wine. Instead, opt for a more mellow chocolate, like milk chocolate or even white chocolate, to enjoy alongside your vino. White chocolate has no cacao solids in it; instead, it's made of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and sometimes vanilla, leaving the color pale and the flavor mild and creamy.
Picking the Right Wine
Picking a wine with low tannins is paramount because of chocolate's natural bitterness. High tannin wines will clash with darker chocolates because tannins highlight bitterness, making the pairing unappetizing. In wine, tannins are the astringent, bitter compounds that dry your mouth out when you take a sip. They're typically found in big red wines like cabernet sauvignon or barolo. When pairing wine with chocolate, swap out your cabernet, a high tannin wine, for a lower tannin wine like pinot noir or Valpolicella Ripasso. You can also opt for a white wine or a sweet dessert wine that have less tannins and won't compete with the bitterness in the chocolate.
Pairing Milk Chocolate with Wine
Milk chocolate is your safest bet when you want to enjoy a wine pairing. Its higher milk and sugar content and lower cacao make it more likely to pair well with your drink of choice. We recommend pairing a medium bodied red like a pinot noir from California or Australia. Both regions are warmer, and their wines boast beautiful ripe fruit flavors that will pair wonderfully with this medium intensity chocolate. Try the 2018 Siduri Russian River Pinot Noir ($35.99, wine.com) or the 2020 19 Crimes The Punishment Pinot Noir ($9.99, wine.com).
Pairing White Chocolate with Wine
White chocolate is the creamiest and most mellow of the chocolate choices. Pair it with a fun, bubbly drink like prosecco or opt for a sweeter rosé like a pink moscato or a rosé of sangiovese. Try the 2020 Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese ($15.99, wine.com) or Martini & Rossi Prosecco ($12.99, wine.com). Another fun pairing is white chocolate and your favorite dessert wine, which are sweeter than your typical dinner wine and come packed with flavors of dried fruits like apricot and nectarine. The intense flavor of a dessert wine pairs perfectly with the mild flavor profile of white chocolate.
Pairing Dark Chocolate with Wine
Dark chocolate is the healthiest for you, but it's also the trickiest to pair with wine. The darker the chocolate, the more cacao used; with that cacao comes an inherent bitterness. If you are opting for dark chocolate, we recommend that you stay under 80 percent cacao. Any darker than that and the bitterness is not pleasurable, especially when exacerbated by wine. To find a great wine to pair with your dark chocolate, it's important to remember that big flavor pairs best with big flavor. Try paring your bold dark chocolate with a full-bodied red like a warm climate merlot, zinfandel or Valpolicella Ripasso. These wines have decadent fruit and lower tannin, matching the flavor intensity of your chocolate without adding to the bitter flavor. Try 2018 Campagnola Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore ($16.99, wine.com) or 2015 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot ($22.99, wine.com).