I can’t believe that Valentine’s Day will be here this weekend! If you’re big on the holiday, I’m sure you’re probably already thinking of ways to spoil your boo. Last year, I shared a couple of fun ideas to help set the mood, but this year I wanted to do something different. Every year, the Valentine’s Day aisles are filled with what? CHOCOLATE! There’s the Godiva chocolates, the chocolate pieces with mystery fillings that come in the heart shaped boxes, and the list goes on and on. There’s just an explosion of chocolate everywhere, so it’s a pretty known fact that chocolate is an easy go-to for gift-giving. But, you know what would make that chocolate taste even better? Well, wine of course! In today’s post we’ll talk about how to pair chocolate with wine. It isn’t as easy as you may think. Both offer intense flavors and complexity, which if done right can be amazing and if done wrong can ruin the whole experience. So, today I’m going to focus on three types of chocolates and provide you with some pairing tips, as well as wine recommendations. With this advice, you’ll be ready to step your chocolate game up with some wine just in time for Valentine’s Day.
A Look at Different Types of Chocolate
Let’s start by looking at the three main types of chocolates and the components of their flavor profile that you should consider when pairing with wine.
- White Chocolate: Some will say that white chocolate isn’t really chocolate, but whateves…lol. It’s actually my personal favorite. White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. It tends to be more rich and buttery in flavor, which makes it an ideal candidate for sweeter styles of wine. You’ll also want a wine that can help cleanse the palate of the rich flavors that come from white chocolate.
- Milk Chocolate: A good milk chocolate is usually about half chocolate and half cream. This type of chocolate is usually sweeter and creamier with flavors of brown sugar, vanilla, and cream. The extra fat from the cream makes milk chocolate one of the easiest “true” chocolates to pair with wine. It requires a wine that is light to medium body, with a ripe fruit flavor.
- Dark Chocolate: The polyphenols in dark chocolate mirror those in wine and give both a somewhat bitter taste. The bitterness in dark chocolate is what you’ll want to balance out with a properly selected wine pairing. Bitter to semi-sweet chocolates that are 50-100% cocoa have intense, bitter flavors, with earthy to fruity undertones. Match the intensity without adding more dryness by pairing these chocolates with full-bodied, yet fruit-forward wines.
Tips to Consider When Pairing
I pulled together some tips that will help you identify what wines to pair with your chocolate.
- Think Sweet. Start with a wine that is slightly sweeter than the chocolate. With both wine and chocolate carrying their innate intensity, they can often find themselves in a palate war, each vying for dominance and immediate attention. To call a truce between the two, let the wine bow to the chocolate in the form of a slightly sweeter wine paired with the chocolate.
- Silky, Velvety, and Soft Wines = Chocolate’s Best Friend. Both wine and chocolate can have intense, dry flavors. When you put together a dark, bittersweet chocolate with a powerful red wine that’s high in tannins, the two can be overwhelming on the palate. In order to find the right balance, it’s best to choose wines that are a little bit softer and juicer than the chocolate you’re pairing it with.
- Match Intensity of Flavor. When in doubt, pair chocolates and wines that have similar style and weight. Less intensely-flavored chocolates go well with lighter-bodied wines, while chocolates with more intense flavors can stand up to fuller-bodied wines.
Now, let’s get into what types of wines pair well with these chocolates.
- White Chocolate
- Pairs wells with a sweet white (like Riesling or Gewürztraminer) and rosè wines, which will cut through the fat in white chocolate and help bring out its buttery and creamy flavors. You could also do a sparkling like Moscato d’ Asti. Sparkling wines can help add a little extra creaminess to the pairing.
- If you’re looking for a red to pair, try a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Both are light bodied wines. The white chocolate acts as the fat that delivers sweet flavors of red cherries, strawberries, and raspberries often found in these two reds.
- Milk Chocolate
- The ripe, red fruit and often lighter body and silky tannins of a Pinot Noir or medium-bodied Merlot will work well with the smooth character and cocoa butter components of milk chocolate.
- You could also do a sweeter style port or Gewürztraminer.
- Dark Chocolate
- Cabernet Sauvignon has rich black currant and blackberry flavors, which add a nice sweetness to dark chocolate’s bitterness.
- If you’re after a more complex taste, you can pair with Zinfandel, a light-bodied red wine with flavors of berries and black pepper. The fruity, spicy and smokey taste when paired with the chocolate give you a rich, bold flavors.
These are just a couple of tips to get you going. I know there is a whole other world of chocolates that include fillings like caramel and mint. I tried to keep it simple and not overcomplicate things. While Valentine’s Day may be around the corner, I love that you can reference these recommendations all year long AND do you have to be in a relationship to use them. So many people enjoy chocolate and now you know some wine pairings that can help compliment them. Hope you enjoy! Until next time…glasses up!