Wine and Chocolate Pairing for Valentines Day!
Chocolate and red wine are both fantastic and delicious, but are they great together? Matching a chocolate with wine is not as simple as grabbing any chocolate and bottle off the shelf. Ideally the chocolate and wine selections should be close in sweetness. It doesn't matter so much if one is sweeter than the other as long as neither is significantly sweeter. Here's why. If the chocolate is much sweeter than the wine, it will enhance the bitter flavor of the wine. If the wine is much sweeter than the chocolate, it will overwhelm your taste buds leaving no room for the flavor of chocolate. Another good rule of thumb is to match flavor intensities. A deep, richly flavored chocolate needs a similarly deep, rich wine. Likewise a chocolate light in flavor needs a light wine.
Now that we have gone over the basics, let’s get to the details.
If bittersweet dark chocolates are your preference, then you'll need strong red wines with concentrated fruit notes like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Port or Shiraz. Bittersweet chocolates, because of their strong flavor and lack of sugar, can stand up to these higher tannin red wines. Sweeter dark chocolates need a wine with slightly robust flavors. This is the perfect opportunity to accentuate the subtle chocolate notes of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Zinfandel. A Port wine also goes well with the rich, full flavor of dark chocolate.
The creaminess of milk chocolate pairs with a Ruby Port, Pinot Noir or light-bodied Merlot (or other light-bodied, light-flavored wines). Sweeter wines like, Riesling, Moscato d'Asti’s or any Dessert Wines are also good matches. These types of wines pair well with milk chocolate because the mild tannin levels underscore the creamy flavor without overpowering it.
White chocolate, is mellow and buttery. Its flavor makes it ideal for softer wines like Sherry or an Orange Muscat. Some people also like it with a Zinfandel. This pair is a case of opposites attract. The high tannic and high alcohol content of the Zinfandel paired with the creamy, buttery white chocolate, blends together. However, overall white chocolates usually go best with dessert or sweeter wines. Another good pair for white chocolate is Champagne or Sparkling wine, especially a bubbly that is on the sweeter side. These typically fall on the drier spectrum of wines, which is why it's best to stick with a sweeter one to enjoy with your chocolate.
You can always match the flavors of the chocolate to the flavors in wine. For instance a chocolate with citrus flavor will naturally go with a wine with citrus notes like a Sauvignon Blanc. Likewise a chocolate caramel will be an ideal match for a similar Chardonnay.
Allow these guidelines to get you started on your chocolate and wine pairing adventure but don't be afraid to make your own matches. It's important to remember that most wine-pairing guidelines are just that... guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules. The best way to find out your favorite chocolate and wine combination is by tasting and sipping. Just like we all have our individual tastes for wine, it will be the same with pairings of wine and chocolate. Enjoy!