Divine or Divide? The Wine and Chocolate Controversy

pairing tips for wine and chocolate

Considered a food faux pas by some, pairing wine and chocolate is still a popular choice.

October 28 is National Chocolate Day, so it seemed like a good day to revive this popular post about pairing wine and chocolate. Personally, we don’t need a reason to indulge our cocoa cravings. Every day is chocolate day around here! Grab a glass of wine and celebrate with your favorite chocolate, or check out the Berries.com blog for 30 more delicious ideas to taste the flavor of the day.

The notion of serving wine with chocolate rubs some the wrong way. Many wine tasters claim that chocolate all but ruins your ability to taste and appreciate a wine; others who like both wine and chocolate consider the pairing as if it were manna.

We say, pair up whatever you like, no matter what others say. However, some general guidelines might steer you to a few combinations that others have enjoyed. 

How to Pair Wine and Chocolate

Outside the chocolate you use when baking, most chocolate is sweet or semisweet. When you pair it with wine, the wine can have a tendency to taste more like grape juice, as critics will gladly, loudly point out. Two tactics can offset this tendency and augment, rather than undermine, the wine’s flavor.

  • Pour a wine that is equally sweet—better yet, a bit sweeter—than the chocolate. This helps the wine stay sweet, rather than begin to taste a little sour.
  • Try to pair light wines with lighter, finer chocolates, and big robust wines with dense, heavy chocolate.

Intuition tells us that we should pair red, rather than white wine with chocolate. Instinct is only half correct—chocolate can work with both white and red, and sometimes with rose and sparkling whites, too.

Suggested Parings for Wine and Chocolate

Rather than pairing by color, the qualities and flavors of a given chocolate and a given wine determine the quality of their marriage. Good pairs are perhaps best conceived as matches and contrasts, rather than in terms of rules.

Belgian Chocolate with Riesling

For example, pairing a dry Riesling (not all Riesling is finished sweet—some are bone dry) with sweet Belgian chocolate may seem like an odd idea. The chocolate will likely be sweeter than the wine, violating the guidelines above. However, the contrast is what often works, rather than a rule about which side of the equation—wine or chocolate- should be sweeter than the other.

Port and Milk Chocolate

A more traditional illustration of the first guideline above would be to match some light, milky chocolate with a tawny, vintage or ruby Port. Some will think this is the dessert served on the Viennese Table at the first banquet inside the Pearly Gates, but others will fumble for their diabetes test pens. The sugar of the Port, however, will more than stand its ground against the sugar of the milk chocolate.

Double-Chocolate Desserts

Have a fat, double chocolate dessert in mind? A weighty Sweet Marsala might give your guests something to write about. If you intend to arrange a nice platter of fine Swiss chocolates, however, a light Sherry may be a better match. The tannins in a dry Cabernet Sauvignon render it a difficult wine to match, but, if you have a silky, fruity Merlot with dinner, consider keeping it on the table for a dessert revolving around a semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate dish. That said, other folks swear by a big red Zinfandel to go with a death-by-chocolate type of dessert, especially if the chocolate is on the dark side.

Best Wines for White Chocolate

White chocolate and GewŸrztraminer make an interesting couple. White chocolate is buttery and rich, yet still lightly flavored, lacking cocoa powder, and the floral fruit of a dry GewŸrztraminer can coax new flavors from the white chocolate. A nice fizzy, fruity, creamy Orange Muscat from the Italy’s Piedmont region makes another excellent match for a relatively mellow white chocolate.

Alternative Pairings for Chocolate

Of course, one can skip the wine and chocolate idea, and pour a barley wine, a chocolate stout, or hefty bock beer instead. Outstanding as those pair with chocolate, if you prefer wine, have no fear. Whatever kind of chocolate you are serving can pair well with at least one type of wine.

Wine and chocolate have no problem paring with one another. Their pairing is less a true controversy, than the often-aped opinion of a few wine critics who prefer the purity of the flavor of a wine to its participation in a joyous joint venture of flavor with chocolate.

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