Tips for pairing chocolate with wine

With approximately 1 billion people eating chocolate every single day of their lives, it’s safe to say it’s one of the most favored foods on the planet. People love it in desserts and on it’s own. It has an inherent luxuriousness to it, which makes people love to pair with an equally luxurious wine. However, most people fail to pair chocolate with a truly complementary wine. Spoiler: a bold Cabernet Sauvignon actually isn’t the best pairing, despite it being the most common among casual wine drinkings. While there is no wrong way to pair food with wine (whatever you like is always best), these expert pairings will leave with you a new understanding of wine & chocolate.

dark chocolate squares

1. When in doubt, pair with Port

The is a general rule when pairing wine with desserts that the wine must always be sweeter than the dessert. Otherwise, the wine comes off as bitter rather than balanced. Port is a fortified wine that is typically sweet, red and served as a dessert wine. It has deep, rich flavor that can be nutty, fruity, earthy, and smoky – all flavors are intense and concentrated. This balances the strength of the flavor of chocolate, as well as its sweetness, perfectly.

2. Avoid dry red wines

So many people love the idea of a dry Cabernet Sauvignon and a slab of luxurious dark chocolate. On their own, each is supremely elegant that it sounds like it should make sense to pair them together. Unfortunately, a dry, tannic wine will clash with a dark, bitter piece of chocolate. So what kind of red wines should you be pairing with chocolate? This leads us to tip number 3…

3. Choose off-dry, frizzante reds

This tip applies particularly to milk chocolate – the sweeter and creamier style of chocolate. While you still want to avoid a dry wine here, off-dry to sweet red wines are great choices if you want something different than Port. A frizzante (slightly sparkingly) red makes for a fun, typically fruit-forward sweet option that complements those subtle notes in milk chocolate. Great choices would be Lambrusco and Brachetto – both are sweeter, Italian frizzante wines.

4. White chocolate is the exception to the rules

Ironically, the super sweet option of white “chocolate” (I’m a firm believer that white chocolate is a misnomer and is without a doubt not chocolate) is the one type of chocolate you can actually make a dry red wine work. While all of the tips here still apply – sweet will always go with sweet, the twist with white chocolate is that it is much higher in fat. It is primarily cacao butter and milk, and this fattiness can counteract any bitterness that would otherwise make a dry red pairing unpleasant.

5. Consider fillings for anything chocolate-covered

A peanut butter cup or chocolate-covered strawberries, even if both are made with milk (or dark) chocolate, will pair best with different wines. If it’s something with peanut butter, choose a fortified wine like Port, Maderia, or Sherry that has strong nutty overtones. Chocolate-covered strawberries would benefit from the bright fruitiness of a Lambrusco or Brachetto.

At the end of the day, if you’re feeling unsure then always fall back to tip #1. Don’t let these tips restrict you from experimenting on your own – the right pairing is always the one that you enjoy the most! Even if it is a 72% Cacao with Cab.

Sydney Isaacs
Sydney Isaacs

Sydney is a 29-year old American living between France and Italy. She has a WSET Level 2 certification in wine, along with a degree in environmental engineering and an MBA. She loves exploring local farmer’s markets, haunting her favorite wine bar, and discovering new restaurants.

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