If you choose the appropriate wine to complement the right chocolate, it may be a spectacular coupling outcome.
Some say pairing wine with chocolate is impossible, but if you choose the appropriate wine to complement the right chocolate, it may be a spectacular coupling outcome. There are a few partnering guidelines to keep in mind when pairing the sometimes subtle, creamy subtleties of delicate white chocolate or the vivid robust tones of dark chocolate with a favourite wine.
Tips To Start Off
Tip 01: Start with a wine that is somewhat sweeter than the chocolate or chocolate-themed dessert to keep things simple. With each bearing its own inherent intensity, wine and chocolate can frequently find themselves engaged in a challenging palate power play, each fighting for supremacy and immediate attention. Allow the wine to bow to the chocolate in the form of a slightly sweeter wine paired with the chunk of chocolate at first to help the two settle into some semblance of amicable equilibrium. The fortified classics of Port, Madeira, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, and Grenache-driven Banyuls are among the tried and true "sweet" wine selections that cover a wide spectrum of chocolate partners, in addition to various late-harvest wine options and other sweet sparkling wines with lighter selections, such as Italy's excellent Brachetto d'Acqui or Moscato d'Asti.
Tip 02: Choose a style and weight that is similar. When mixing wines with chocolate, strive to pair lighter, more elegantly flavoured chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; similarly, the stronger the chocolate, the fuller-bodied the wine should be. Bittersweet chocolate, for example, works nicely with a strong, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate, the drier, tannin-like texture. When paired with a wine that also has a stouter tannic structure, the chocolate will frequently overpower or cancel out the tannins on the palate, allowing more of the vinous fruit to shine through.
Tip 03: From light to dark chocolate, or from light to full-bodied wine. If you're going to experiment with different chocolates, start with light white chocolate, then move on to milk chocolate, and finally to the drier notes of dark chocolate. By beginning with the more subtle nuances of white chocolate and concluding with dark or bittersweet chocolate, you will prevent your palette from going into overdrive and missing out on the subtle sweet sensations found in more delicate chocolate selections (and wine).
A Pinot Noir or a medium-bodied Merlot with ripe, red fruit and often lighter body and silky tannins will pair well with the smooth character and cocoa butter components of milk chocolate, a creamy chocolate mousse, or chocolate-enhanced cheesecake. Riesling, Muscat, and other famous dessert wines can also stand up to the gentle mouthfeel and integrated profile of milk chocolate. Consider pairing milk chocolate-dipped strawberries with sparkling wine or Champagne. The vibrant acidity and bubble fusion bring out the strong fruit flavours and chocolate nuances especially effectively. When in doubt, choose a classic.
White chocolate has a more mellow and buttery flavour, making it a great match for sweeter varieties of Sherry (think Spain's rich, full-bodied Pedro Ximénez Sherry) and the sweet, subtle bubbles of Moscato d'Asti (try Saracco's Moscato d'Asti), or go for the heady fragrances of an Orange Muscat. The Sherry and Moscato d'Asti will accentuate the creamy textures of the chocolate, while the Orange Muscat will highlight any fruit components that may be hidden inside the chocolate. Aiming for distinction is another way to pair wine and white chocolate. While a little riskier, the pairing is unforgettable when the flavour contrast works properly. For example, combining a Zinfandel's greater alcohol content and full-bodied, strong upfront fruit with the gentle textures and buttery flavour of white chocolate can result in an unexpected "melding" effect. The tannic content of the wine softens beneath the fat character of the chocolate, bringing the ripe Zin fruit to the surface.
Dark or bittersweet chocolates with a higher cacao content (by definition, dark chocolate includes at least 35% cocoa solids) necessitate a wine with a bigger body, robust scents, and intense flavour drawings of bold fruit and possibly a dab of indigenous chocolaty subtleties. Zinfandels have a long history of handling dark chocolate pleasures very well, with their deep fruit, lively spice, and frequently higher alcohol levels. For example, in their annual Wine and Chocolate weekends, California's famed wine-growing district of Lodi prioritises Zinfandel and chocolate combinations. Cabernet Sauvignon's robust structure and full-bodied profile, frequently displaying rich black fruit and noticeably defined tannin, provide a good partner for the distinctively drier style of deeper chocolate themes. Consider a Pinot Noir or a Merlot to pair with dark chocolate that contains 55% cacao. Banyuls, a Southern French fortified wine, maybe the pinnacle of wine and dark chocolate combos. Because of the Grenache grapes, the full-bodied flavours frequently host their own chocolate overtones, mirroring the palate textures of dark chocolate and producing a spectacular matching synergy that's hard to beat. Along with the fortified themes, try a Tawny or Vintage Port to add a well-balanced, complementing flavour to a dark chocolate dish or truffle.
If you want to experiment with wine and chocolate pairings in a simple and economical way, picking up a couple of bars of premium chocolate is a good place to start. Taking a "mix and match" approach to discovering your own specific palate preferences can provide you with a "hands-on" understanding of which wines truly complement which chocolate combinations.