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Wine And Chocolate Pairing

Jan 29, 2008
As we approach Valentine's Day, thoughts turn to wine and chocolate. Well, ok maybe we think of other things as well, but we do think about giving chocolates. Wouldn't it be great to give chocolates and experience it with a wonderful wine?

Chocolate is not easy to pair. The general rule with all pairings is the wine should be sweeter than the food, and this applies to chocolate as well. Otherwise the taste will be sour and the finish will be unpleasant. We usually think of Champagne or a Red. But so does everyone else and it seems outdated. Plus the bubbles get in your nose and the red can really ruin the whole experience since there are more bad matches then good ones.

You can't go wrong with a dessert wine or port with fruity flavors high with residule sugars. If you don't like sweet wines, Cabernets are a great alternative because a lot of them have a hint of cocoa, along with blackberries and spices. Make sure you don't grab an oakey Cabernet though as you will be disappointed. The oak doesn't work well with the sweetness of the chocolate and makes a bad match.

Don't forget too that there isn't just one type of chocolate. Dark, white, milk and semi-sweet chocolates all have different characteristics and require a wine that stands on it's own to the chocolate. A full bodied Zinfandel might work well with dark chocolates while an orange fortified muscat could work well with white chocolates. There is no science to wine paring and the fun is in the experimentation.

Tips for Successfully Pairings Wines with Chocolate

Tip #1: The wine needs to be at least as sweet, if not a sweeter, than the chocolate you are having. Otherwise, the taste may quickly turn towards sour.

Tip #2: Match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines and the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate pairs well with an intense California Zinfandel.

Tip #3: If you are experimenting with several varities of chocolates, work from light to dark. Start with a more subtle white chocolate and end on a dark or bittersweet chocolate.

White Chocolate Wine Suggestions

White chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for a Sherry, a Moscato d'Asti, or an Orange Muscat. The Sherry and Moscato d'Asti will pick up the creaminess of the chocolates and the Orange Muscat will pick up any fruit tones present.

Milk Chocolate Wine Suggestions

Pinot Noir or a lighter-bodied Merlot will complement a bar of milk chocolate, a creamy chocolate mousse or chocolate accented cheesecake. Rieslings (like Chateau St Jean), Muscats or dessert wines tend to hold up well to mild milk chocolates.

Dark Chocolate Wine Suggestions

Dark or bittersweet chocolates need a wine that offers a roasted, slightly bitter flavor itself, with perhaps a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabs and Zinfandels have a history of perfecting the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. A Cabernet Sauvignon (try Beringers Port) or a Zinfandel will more than fill your chocolate pairing expectations.

So for Valentines Day go out and buy some chocolates, and a few bottles of wine, and see what works. If nothing else you'll be eating chocolate and drinking wine. Now that's a perfect pairing!
About the Author
MatchMyWine explains how to match wine with chocolate, not an easy thing to do. If the chocolate is sweet, the wine needs to be sweeter. Check out MatchMyWine for more great tips about food and wine pairing, and tons of recipes.
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