Valentine’s Day is upon us, that’s why many are eyeing this iconic duo. Learn how to perfectly pair them with our Ultimate Guide to Wine and Chocolate
It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for you to enjoy wine and chocolate, but these romantic staples do tend to be more popular in February. And we can’t blame you! Both of them are a sensual journey in texture, flavor, and aroma. While it’s perfectly acceptable to select your favorite bottle of wine and your favorite type of chocolate, there are a few details you might want to consider.
The world of fine chocolate is just as rich and complex as the world of wine. There are particular regions of the world that produce unique chocolate. Plus, just how there are different types of wine grapes, there are different types of cocoa beans. These similarities, however, mean it can often be tricky to pair them well.
Luckily, there’s no need to get overwhelmed with choices. Keep reading for perfect pairing tips in our Ultimate Guide to Wine and Chocolate.
Why You Should Try Pairing Wine and Chocolate
Obviously, because they’re both delicious! All joking aside, wine and chocolate are seriously two of the most mouthwatering items we can think of. Good chocolate, like good wine, is complex. Care has been taken with the different flavors, textures, and aromas to create an experience you won’t soon forget.
A good food and wine pairing, however, creates an even more unforgettable experience. The right pairing can enhance, mute, or completely transform a dining experience–and that includes dessert 😉
Not a fan of dark chocolate? The right wine can mute its bitterness to create a softer, more rounded experience. Think white chocolate is too sweet? Choose a wine that lifts certain flavors for a less sweet, more complex experience. Seriously, the right wine might just change the mind of dedicated chocolate haters (gasp!).
Many of the techniques used for more traditional wine pairings still work for chocolate as well. You want to match intensities so neither overpowers the other, and you can have fun and play around with complementary and contrasting pairings to enhance or mute desired flavors.
But honestly, both wine and chocolate are about personal preferences. So, a pairing that one person might love might not work at all for someone else. That’s why we’ve put together the following items for you to consider when pairing wine and chocolate…
How to Pair Wine and Chocolate
If you’ve already selected your chocolate of choice, it’s now time to choose just the right wine to elevate it even further. Before grabbing the nearest bottle, however, you should find out a bit of information about your chocolate. Is it dark chocolate with nutty flavors? Smooth white chocolate with notes of raspberry? Is it solid or does it have a crunchy wafer in the middle?
Without this information, it’s hard to know which wine will suit it best. If you shopped directly with a Chocolatier (a person or business that makes their own chocolate confections) they’ll most likely have all this information for you. It’s also possible they may already have a wine recommendation handy.
If you grabbed the first box of chocolates you saw at the grocery store, don’t sweat it. You can still find this information on most company websites. Try to determine the dominant tastes of your chocolate–acid, sweet, bitter, fat, salt, and spice. Obviously, we’ll be working with a lot of sweet and fat tastes, but there are several chocolates that incorporate bitter and spice as well. This information will definitely come in handy later on.
Now that you have some basic information about your chocolate, let’s get started!
Most white chocolate is made up of sugar, cocoa butter, cream, and vanilla. If you’re wondering where the cocoa beans come in…they don’t. Regardless of whether or not you consider this “true” chocolate, its wine pairing potential is fascinating.
White chocolate tends to be very buttery, meaning it has prominent fat tastes. While you may be tempted to immediately grab a crisp white wine, we actually love a dry red wine with white chocolate! Hear us out…
The creamy, sweetness of white chocolate can be a bit overwhelming. When you pair it with a medium-bodied red, however, it softens the sweetness of the chocolate and highlights any fruity, floral flavors in the wine. Something like our Supertuscan Tenuta di Burchino brings cherry, berry, and balsamic flavors that make the sweetness of white chocolate more manageable.
Don’t get us wrong, crisp white wines with fruity or floral flavors will still get the job done and keep your palate feeling refreshed. Pair our Castellani, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie with white chocolate to bring out the crisp notes of apple, peach, and Hawthorne in this wine.
Milk chocolate is usually made up of half chocolate and half cream. The cream gives it some fat content for you to play around with, so definitely keep that in mind. If the chocolate is particularly creamy, you may benefit from a wine with mild acidity to help “cut” the fat a bit. This will keep your mouth from feeling unpleasantly slippery from all the cream.
A medium-bodied red with easy tannins and a soft finish will complement the richness of this chocolate nicely. If you select a wine similar to a Merlot (like our Guadalmare) or Pinot Noir, it will help highlight all the best parts of milk chocolate without taming too much of its richness.
This variety is made with very little cream, which is what makes it so dark. Dark chocolate is a bit of an acquired taste, but so is wine! Both contain polyphenols that impart a somewhat bitter taste. If the bitterness is a bit much for you, you might enjoy it with a full-bodied red or a medium-white. No matter what though, fruit-forward flavors tend to please a variety of palates.
Dark chocolate is one of the trickier chocolates to pair. Considering the polarizing effect dark chocolate has, it’s no surprise that opinions vary on the best wine pairings. Some say if the wine is too acidic, it may clash with the bitter notes of the chocolate for an unpleasant experience. Others claim a sweeter wine is the only way to offset the bitterness of dark chocolate.
Personally, our favorite way to complement dark chocolate is with a creamy white wine or a complex full-bodied red. If you prefer white wines, we recommend something with the buttery texture of a Chardonnay like our Tenuta di Ceppaiano. For our red lovers, our Tenuta Santa Lucia has notes of cherries and blueberries that will enrich your dark chocolate experience.
Want More Tips for Pairing Wine and Chocolate?
We don’t blame you. These two items are very complex, and personal taste plays a big role when it comes to pairing them. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of contradictory tips out there.
Pair dark chocolate with dry reds! No, pair dark chocolate with sweeter wines!
See what we mean? So, our best advice is to just try out your own unique pairings and figure out what works best for you. If, however, you’d like a bit more guidance, here are a few tried and true tips for pairing wine and chocolate…
Don’t Double Up on Polyphenols
For example, say you have bittersweet dark chocolate. If you pair it with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec that has lots of tannins, the mouth-puckering sensation is going to be intense. Try to find a happy balance when it comes to tannins.
Late-Harvest Sweet Wines Create Simple, Palate Pleasing Pairings
If all else fails, choosing a wine that’s a tad bit sweeter than your chocolate is usually a safe bet. If you’re watching your sugar, or if you just don’t love an overly sweet experience, choosing a fruity or floral rosé can be the perfect compromise.
Pair Your Wine With Other Ingredients in Your Chocolate
While we usually recommend pairing your wine to the type of chocolate, it can be really interesting to pair your wine with additional ingredients. We’re talking about chocolate that contains nuts, caramel, berries, and even spices. This is a more adventurous method, but it can yield fantastic results and allow you to create pairings you might not have chosen otherwise.
Fall in Love with Wine and Chocolate
Whether you’re choosing wine and chocolate for a special someone or just for yourself, challenge yourself with a new pairing and broaden your palate. Also, we think YOU are a pretty special someone, so we’re giving you permission to treat yourself this Valentine’s Day as well.
Consider joining SECCO Wine Club so you can practice those wine pairing skills with a variety of natural, low-carb wines. Also, don’t forget to tag us in your wine and chocolate posts on Instagram for a chance to be featured in one of our stories!