What To Consider When Coupling Wine With Chocolate
As with any food and wine pairing, there’s a certain art to coupling the flavours in chocolate with those in your favourite drop.
A well-matched duo will draw out the most palatable qualities of both, while a poor combination will leave you with bitter flavours and a dry mouthfeel.
“The trick to a good pairing is to try and find similar flavours in both the wine and the food,” says Malcolm Leask, winemaker and director of South Australia winery Hither & Yon. “It’s about finding balance and harmony between the two elements.”
Flavours clash when this harmony isn’t achieved, leaving you with a pretty unenjoyable tasting experience, adds Christine Ricketts, Cellar Director and Wine Educator at Cellarmasters.
“It’s the cocoa butter, dairy, bitterness and sweetness that cause the problem,” she says.
“Together, they are all quite rich, and [when] paired with the wrong wine can emphasise the wrong things, like bitterness.”
Clare Halloran, Head Winemaker and General Manager of Victoria’s TarraWarra Estate expands.
“While a rich dry red may sound great with dark chocolate, the truth is that the tannins in the chocolate will only emphasise the tannin in the wine, and the limited sweetness of both will leave a lingering bitterness on the palate,” she says.
Avoid a wine-tasting faux pas the next time you entertain by following these expert tips on pairing vino with chocolate.
Always start by tasting the chocolate
When coupling wine with chocolate, Leask stresses that you should always taste the chocolate first and wine second.
“Try a bite by itself. Then, take a sip of wine, remembering the taste of the chocolate you just had. Finally, put both the chocolate and the wine in your mouth, and make sure the flavours come together and don’t compete against each other.
“The food needs to emphasise the wine’s flavours; the wine needs to reveal the food’s flavours.”
Pair fruity reds with dark chocolate
Generally speaking, red wines pair quite beautifully with dark chocolate, shares Leask. As long as the tannins in the wine are “not too dry”, the juicy notes will go nicely with the flavours in the chocolate.
“A red is easy to pair with dark chocolate,“ he says. “It will enhance the dark fruit and dark chocolate flavours already in it – like in a Shiraz, for instance.”
Halloran also points out the significance of tannin.
“A chocolate that’s over 70 per cent cacao will need to be matched with a wine that has higher sweetness and lower tannin content,” she says.
“I’d go for a Pedro Ximénez style sherry, a port-style wine, or perhaps a Vin Santo.”
Pair creamy rosés with milk chocolate
“More milk fat in chocolate will fill out the palate, and can be paired with a higher tannin content,” says Halloran.
“Rosé and sparkling [wines] with lower residual sugar are great with milk chocolate,” she adds.
Leask shares this view on rosé but stresses that when choosing wine with chocolate, their compatibility depends on the specific flavours in the drop.
“Milk chocolate will would go well with a creamy rosé like our 2018 Rosé, which is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Red Muscat, Touriga and Nero d’Avola,” he says.
Pair dry or acidic whites with white chocolate
White chocolate is something of an exception to many of the rules of matching wine and chocolate, as it is technically cocoa-free.
“White chocolate actually goes well with white wine,” says Ricketts.
“Try it with a Chardonnay that has been aged in French oak, as the oak gives the wine beautiful, coconut flavours that match the chocolate.”
If Chardonnay isn’t your style, Leask shares that a good place to start is “probably something with a bit of acidity to cut through the creaminess and sugar that white chocolate usually has.” He offers a Petit Blanc as a suggestion.
When in doubt, go with something sweet
If flavour combinations are too tricky to keep track of, or you’re unsure what kind of chocolate you will be eating, select a sweet wine.
“As a rule, a sweet wine like Tawny Port pairs perfectly with chocolate as the sweetness is on a similar level,” says Ricketts.
Alternatively, “a rich, fruit-forward wine like Shiraz or Merlot” should be equally as tasty.
On this point, Halloran suggests reaching for a juicy red that’s low in tannins.
“Some red wines such as Barbera can have lower tannin content, and will therefore work well with all chocolate,” she says.
Don’t forget to drink what you enjoy
“The most important part is to enjoy what you are tasting,” says Leask. “If the wine and chocolate flavours bring you joy when paired together, then the match is working.”
Ricketts echoes this point, saying “Choose something you love.”
(Lead image: Cellarmasters / supplied)
Published 23 April, 2019