Wine and Chocolate
When it comes to wine pairings, cheese is a traditional favorite, but there truly is something magical about chocolate. If you have never tried wine and chocolate together, you might wonder whether the pairing process is complex. Can’t we just pop the cork, unwrap the chocolate, and go? Can we say the same thing about chocolate that we can about cheese — that an inexpensive wine is made better with more chocolate? Sure, we can, but what if we enjoy great chocolate with great wine?
Why does this pairing work? Like meats and cheeses, various chocolates have different flavor structures that complement certain wines. Because of this, there are certainly best practices to follow when picking your pair. By using some of the tips we’ll share with you in this article, you can make informed decisions about combining fun new wines and interesting new chocolates you discover.
Ah, milk chocolate. Sweet, smooth, melts in your mouth — and sometimes your hands. With a treat this delightfully sweet, you can create exceptional pairings with some of our sweet white wines like:
Riesling is a German white wine that features light sweetness with hints of orange peel, citrus, honey, and peach. This light and vibrant wine gives a little boost of sweetness and acidity that meshes perfectly with the milk chocolate, like a little bouquet of freshness right on top. Though made primarily in Germany and Alsace, France and Austria, there are plenty of great Rieslings coming out of Washington State as well.
Moscato d’Asti has a light body with lychee, peach, lime, and orange zest flavors, making it a dessert wine that packs enough natural sweetness to satisfy any sweet tooth, doubly so when paired with milk chocolate.
Champagne works for just about everything, though ideal pairings often depend on the level of sweetness you get. Extra Dry and Dry (in Champagne terms, these are more off-dry), Sec, and Demi-Sec will all provide varying levels of sweetness to complement the chocolate.
Pinot Noir, like Champagne, is versatile and has an incredible amount of potential pairings. A fruity, medium- to light-bodied Pinot Noir can bring notes of cherry, subtle herb bouquets, and even hints of cinnamon, making it a natural companion for milk chocolate.
Brachetto d’Acqui is light in body and full of sweetness. Bursting with notes of raspberry syrup, this wine offers yet another perfect match for the best milk chocolates you can find.
You can also sample drier red wines when looking for an ideal pairing option. Something like a Merlot or even a Merlot-based Bordeaux will balance the chocolate’s sweetness with light fruit and, in some cases, a slight earthiness. Red blends are natural pairing options due to their penchant for being a bit more fruit-forward. In fact, any fruit-forward wine will work. Pinot Noirs from the New World will pair quite nicely, blending fruit acidity with creamy chocolate for a match made in heaven. Ruby Port adds a rich and smooth sweetness to the silky nature of milk chocolate, giving you beautiful moments of decadent bliss.
With dark chocolate, we’re now dealing with a sweet that has tannins of its own. These tannins give the chocolate a sharp and bitter flavor. Though it’s tempting to match the chocolate, tannin for tannin with a bold Cabernet, this approach usually results in either a tug-of-war between dominating flavors or an unpleasant taste experience overall.
Cabernet is trickier than you think when it comes to dark chocolate. A bold, full-bodied Cab will vie for dominance with its heavy tannins, usually resulting in a gross taste. Look for a stainless steel-aged Cabernet that is lighter and fruit-forward, as these will typically have a little extra residual sugar to complement the bitterness and make for a phenomenal pairing.
Red blends from the New World are juicy and bursting with combinations of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, and black currant, these wines combine with dark chocolate to deliver delightfully complex flavor experiences.
Shiraz is the southern hemisphere name for Syrah, and most of this varietal comes from Australia. More fruit-forward and jammy than its European cousin, Shiraz is a unique yet natural pairing for dark chocolate.
Zinfandel checks off all the boxes we want for dark chocolate: fruity, full-bodied, and just enough sugar to keep things sweet (the extra alcohol percentage doesn’t hurt either). Zin is California's signature grape! It does really well in the warm sun during the hot days of summer in California’s inland growing regions, like Lodi and Paso Robles.
White chocolate is smooth and silky, with nutty notes and full sweetness. Though not technically chocolate, as it’s not made with cocoa, it still commands a unique place in the world of chocolate. Most white chocolate pairings are made with sweet dessert wines.
Gewurztraminer can be a mouthful to say, and while it’s not necessarily a dessert wine, it pairs exceptionally well with white chocolate. Less sweet than Riesling, Gewurztraminer has its notes of lychee, lime, and even a bit of spice.
Late-Harvest Riesling is just that, a riesling where the grapes have been harvested later than normal. Riesling grapes that are harvested late in the growing season provide a sweeter wine that brings richer notes of spice, cinnamon, lemon curd, and apricot, all of which pair well with the nutty sweetness of white chocolate.
Rosé is a wonderful and romantic wine made by partially macerating the grape skins during the production process. Look for a west coast rosé with notes of strawberry and raspberry to pair with white chocolate.
Chardonnay is underrated for chocolate. A nice oaked Chardonnay from California will give body and more creamy texture to white chocolate, while an unoaked Chardonnay will bring smooth pear and nutty notes.
Alternative Chocolate Styles
Sometimes you like a little heat in your chocolate. Sugar neutralizes the pepper’s heat, so a sweet red like Brachetto or even a Lambrusco will do the trick. On the flip side, if you want to kick things up a notch, a nice full-bodied and very tannic Cabernet will spice things up, as the tannins intensify the already existing heat (this goes for spicy dishes, too).
Salted Caramel Chocolates
Port wines work very well with caramel, especially given their rich and sweet nature. A fruity Shiraz would make for a fun and interesting pairing
Creme Filled Chocolates
A nice oaked Chardonnay will make creme-filled treats even tastier by adding a little oak and body to the lightness of the cream.
Chardonnay works well when paired alongside the hazelnut’s rich nature, but so will something like a Pinot Noir or a Merlot.
Wine and Chocolate Tasting
A wine and chocolate tasting can feel daunting but don’t worry, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Just like you would with dinner courses, start your dessert tasting with the lightest and work your way to the darkest, in both wines and chocolates.
When planning for your wine and chocolate party, it’s a good idea to start from your lighter wines and chocolates and move into the heavier stuff. It never hurts to start with something bubbly and end with something sweet. For example, white chocolate with Chardonnay, milk chocolate with Pinot Noir, caramel-filled chocolate with Shiraz, and dark chocolate with Zinfandel.
If you’re looking for gift baskets, it’s all about pairing the wines they love with the chocolate they love. But here are some great examples we have that are ready to impress the wine snob in your life!
We can’t talk about wine and chocolate without mentioning the most well-known romantic holiday, Valentine’s Day. It is the perfect time to try one of the tastiest wine and chocolate pairings possible. That’s right; we’re talking about chocolate-covered strawberries. The general rule of thumb is to pair the wine with the chocolate you use for the strawberries. If you want to get even more romantic, grab a little champagne and place strawberry quarters in the glasses for extra sweetness and flavor.
For a gift option that’s as charming as it is simple, try our Valentine’s Gift Basket that includes a White Blend or Rosé and a light-bodied Cabernet and your favorite milk and dark chocolates. This easy wine and chocolate pairing is the perfect way to create a romantic experience with your special someone.