Best Wine with Chocolate

We’ve all been there, sitting in a fancy restaurant staring at the exhaustive wine list, trying to figure out which one will be a tasty addition to that chocolate dessert you just ordered only to end up picking something that tastes like bitter vinegar in contrast to the gooey chocolate sponge – it’s very disappointing.

Lots of wines tend to be far too tart to work well with ultra-sweet chocolate, especially desserts and finding a wine that will combat the bitterness of dark chocolate is particularly tough.

Things to consider are the color, the sweetness, the acidity and the flavor profiles. Also, if you’re pairing with a dessert, whether it is served hot or cold will affect which wine choice is best.

Additional flavors such as, if the chocolate is infused with fruit or nuts or if a dessert features fruit alongside the chocolate will also need to come into consideration.

Fortunately, once you know what types of wine will best complement different types of chocolate, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite sweet treats and wash it down with the perfect glass of vino!

Best Color Wine to have with Chocolate

When you think of wine and chocolate, you tend to imagine a nice, dark red, probably because it’s closer in color to chocolate than other wines. But, chocolate is pretty varied in flavor, so pairing it with one color wine in particular isn’t possible.

The best thing to do when pairing wine and chocolate, is think about the additional flavors in the chocolate and try to pair them with your wine.

You also need to consider how sweet the chocolate is because you don’t want to pair a very sweet chocolate with a very tart wine, as these flavors will clash and create a horrible taste in your mouth.

In general, people tend to prefer a red wine with dark chocolate as the flavors are quite similar but when pairing very sweet milk chocolate or white chocolate, going for something with more gentle flavors like those of a nice white works better.

Pairing milk chocolate will fall somewhere between, depending on the cocoa concentration.

Things get a little tricker when pairing wine and chocolate desserts, though. Sommelier, Kelvin McCabe, told Decanter.com, when it comes to sweet chocolate desserts, it’s a good idea to stay away from dessert wines that can be too unctuous, instead tawny Ports can work really well.

As you can see, pairing wine and chocolate is not as simple as the obvious red meat = red wine and white meat = white wine.

Finding the right pairing involves lots of trial and error which can be expensive and frustrating so, we’ve found the best wine pairings based on the type of chocolate, so you don’t have to! Keep reading to find out.

Dark Chocolate

Possibly the most difficult chocolate to pair with wine is dark chocolate because the polyphenols in it are so similar to those in wine. The result: a pretty bitter taste in your mouth.

Dark chocolate can be quite bitter and so can some wines, so finding the correct flavors to balance this out is imperative for a successful wine and chocolate pairing. Fortunately, there are some wines that manage this.

Here are our top recommendations for pairing wine with dark chocolate:

  • Dolcetto – this rich red is made from the Italian black wine grape and is a perfect match for dark chocolate, especially varieties containing cherry notes. Common tasting notes include licorice, black cherry and bitter almond – delicious!
  • Port – this sweet red wine leaves residual sugar in the wine delivering a lovely full-bodied sweet flavor that contrasts well with the bitter high cocoa percentage in dark chocolate
  • Pedro Ximénez –  made with Spanish white wine grapes, this intensely sweet dessert sherry works well to contrast the bitterness of dark chocolate. In fact, this wine is often combined with spicy notes and chocolate and even works well with espresso
  • Malbec – with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry and depending on how long it is aged in oak, will offer a milk chocolate, cocoa powder and violet finish – a perfect pairing 

Milk Chocolate 

Milk chocolate will typically consist of half cocoa and half cream, so the creaminess and the fattiness of the cream helps to balance the mix of flavors in chocolate and wine.

The main issue when pairing wine and milk chocolate is finding a wine that is sweet enough so as not to taste too acidic when contrasted against the milky, sweetness of milk chocolate.

Here are our top recommendations for pairing wine with milk chocolate:

  • Viognier – a rich white with aromatic notes of honeysuckle, peach and apricot. The combination of floral and stone fruit flavors gives a smooth, creamy taste that will work perfectly with creamy milk chocolate, particularly milk chocolate infused or paired with stone fruits such as peach and apricot
  • Pinot Noir – a light, dry red with fruit-forward tasting notes. You get flavors of cherries, red currants and other berries as well as hints of vanilla that will work well with milk chocolate with a slightly higher cocoa percentage
  • Pinot Gris – a more unctuous dry white with hints of honey and almond. This wine works perfectly with sweet milk chocolate 
  • Lambrusco di Sorbara – this light sparkling red wine has delicate flavors of strawberry and peach which work very well with the creaminess of milk chocolate
  • Ruby Port – a nice, simple flavor that can taste pretty sweet. Its profile brings out notes of berries and spiced flavors
  • Tawny – similar to Ruby Port, only the flavor profile is nuttier and less fruit-forward but both work great with sweet milk chocolate

White Chocolate

You don’t want the flavor profiles of wine and white chocolate to be competing so the best wines to go for are those which are sweeter than the chocolate.

So, as you probably best, you’re going to be looking for at least slightly sweet, if not very sweet wines here.

Here are our top recommendations for pairing wine with white chocolate:

  • Riesling – this aromatic white works really well with very creamy white chocolate. It offers notes of fruits like apricot, nectarine and pear. It is a dry, semi-sweet wine that will pair beautifully with white chocolate as its fresh taste blends with the creaminess of the chocolate to create a nice balance
  • Zinfandel – a fresh glass of sweet white Zinfandel will have notes of red fruit flavors and light citrus like strawberries, raspberries that pairs very well with white chocolate, much like red berry flavors go great in white chocolate (white chocolate and cranberry anything is delicious!) white chocolate and wines with notes of red berries go hand in hand
  • Sherry – a nice sweet sherry will pair well with the mellow flavors of white chocolate without overwhelming your palette with too much sweetness. Expect notes of baked apple and almond – yum!

Flavored Chocolate

Chocolate infused with other strong flavors can be a little easier to pair because you can focus on the additional flavors and match them to the wine.

Here are some wines that work well with popular chocolate flavors:

  • Caramel chocolate – Moscatel de Setubal complements caramel notes with flavors or marmalade and nuts
  • Mint chocolate – Syrah is a full-bodied, smooth wine with notes of black pepper, licorice and chocolate
  • Ginger chocolate – Orange Muscat combines flavors of orange blossom, apricot and honeysuckle
  • Strawberry chocolate – Lambrusco Amabile has flavors of dark red berries including strawberries as well as a little hint of spice

Chocolate Desserts

When it comes to pairing wine and a chocolate dessert, the rule of thumb is to pair a wine that is sweeter than the dessert.

But, you don’t want to overpower your palette with too much sugar, so finding the correct balance is super important.

You should also think about whether it is hot or cold, and what other ingredients and flavors you’re getting from the chocolate. 

  • Madeira – a delicious wine often paired with desserts, Madeira offers flavors of caramel, orange, peach, hazelnut and burnt sugar. Cold chocolate desserts paired with fruits will work best with this option
  • Ruby Port – for hot chocolate desserts featuring cherries and other berries, a sweet Ruby Port will work great. It’s sweet enough to compliments a sweet dessert and offers notes of cherries too

Final Say

The main thing you need to consider when pairing wine and chocolate is the type of chocolate. Generally milk and white chocolates are easier to work with than dark chocolate, but once you know what to look out for and what to avoid you should be able to find something that you like and pairs well with your chocolate of choice.

Deciding on one type of wine in particular to pair with chocolate is impossible, but to sum up, for darker chocolate, opting for a sweet red is your best bet and for milkier chocolate, choose a fresh, fruity white.

Don’t stress about it too much, though, because after a glass or two you probably won’t mind so much anyway!

Christina Day
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