Yes, I know they aren’t a natural match, but sometimes I just want some wine AND chocolate. At the same time. Together. Because that’s what I’m in the mood for. So despite all the naysayers, you can have your wine and your chocolate too. The problem is doing so without totally screwing up the taste of one or the other. Here are a few combos that have taken me through many a soothe-fest. A basic rule of thumb is that you want the wine to be slightly sweeter than whatever you’re eating.
Moscato d’Asti has never been my bubbly of choice but it’s a fun match with white chocolate. White chocolate is super sweet and can almost be cloying so the refreshing bubbles of the Moscato is a nice touch and lightens the load. Plus the Moscato has some sweetness to match the sweetness in the white chocolate. I also like white chocolate with Rosé. For this one, I like a fruitier Rosé rather than one with more earthy, savory flavors. Even better if it has a bit of residual sugar. Save those beautiful bone-dry Rosés for some other occasion.
Milk chocolate is typically smooth, creamy, and has a good level of fat so acid can be your friend here. Riesling works here because the high level of acidity is a refreshing palate cleanser after the heavy milk chocolate. An off-dry version also gives you the sweetness you need. A Rutherglen Muscat also works nicely here. In this case, we’re going sweet with with sweet. I’ve also had Muscat with my Mardi Gras King Cake and loved it. One pairing I haven’t tired is Hungary’s Tokaji which I’m intrigued by and think would also play well here.
Dark chocolate can pair nicely with red wine but it has to be the right red wine. Go wrong and they both are a yucky, bitter mess. In these instances, jammy fruit bombs are your friend. Especially those with residual sugar. Red wines that sometimes fall into this category are Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Lodi Zinfandel in particular can offer up those sweet red fruit notes that can pair with dark chocolate. Petite Sirah is similarly fruity with its intense, red fruits. Both of these wines pack intense flavor that stand up to the intense flavor of dark chocolate.
Bitter Dark Chocolate
We’re talking serious levels of cacao here. Port or Banyuls are my go-to wines here. Port is a classic choice and these two really do love each other. The bitterness of the dark chocolate is a natural for the dark, intense fruit and sweetness of the Port. You can go for a new world style port wine (a late harvest Zinfandel may bring a tear to your eye) or the real deal and either way you’re good. I also love Maury, which is a Grenache based dessert wine from Languedoc-Roussillon, with bitter dark chocolate. I had a pairing dinner at Le Jules Verne in Paris and one of the pairings was Banyuls and dark chocolate. I haven’t been right ever since. It was so good!
Yah, it’s not chocolate, but I love chocolate with caramel and sometimes just the carmel itself. I’ve had caramel based desserts with both Vin Santo and Pedro Ximénez (“PX”) Sherry (the only sherry I love so far). The PX, with its oxidative characteristics takes on some caramel flavors so the two are a natural together. Heck, it even looks like caramel! And the older the PX, the more acidic and elegant the wine. Like PX, Italy’s Vin Santo is known for its nutty and caramel flavors. Just be careful with both of these as the alcohol levels are pretty high. A little goes a long way here. Me thinks Madeira would fit in nicely here too. Stay tuned.
And when in doubt, I open Champagne which never disappoints. But I usually go “Demi-Sec” or “ Doux.” Cheers to wine and chocolate y’all!