Chocolate and Wine Pairing Tips for an Indulgent Duo

Published August 19, 2022
Delicious chocolate pralines

Pairing chocolate and wine has been an idealistic match for ages. But really, pairing the two can be a bit tricky, particularly dark chocolate and red wine. They have similar characteristics and strong tannins that can clash in an unpleasant way. So, what chocolate wine pairings do work? There are a few combinations that really hit the mark.

Chocolate Wine Pairings to Make You Swoon

To get started on your chocolate wine pairing journey, look at chocolate by type and try one or more of these luxurious pairings.

Chocolate and Wine Pairing Infographic

White Chocolate and Wine Pairing

White chocolate is extra decadent due to its high content of cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. It's rich and buttery with notes of vanilla, honey, and sweet cream. You'll want to choose a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate itself so it ends up balancing out at neutral (which may seem a bit counter intuitive). Try something like a spätlese riesling, moscato d'Asti, or off-dry rosé with decent body. These wines have enough residual sugar and personality to match a square of white chocolate without getting washed out.

Milk Chocolate and Wine Pairing

Often considered less sophisticated than dark, milk chocolate is by no means the lesser chocolate. Its creamy texture with notes of vanilla and brown sugar can really hit the spot. The lack of tannins and luscious fat makes it more versatile to pair than dark chocolate, too. Light- to medium-bodied wines with bright fruit notes will go great with milk chocolate. Think easy drinking red blends, or pinot noir, port, or gewürztraminer.

Dark Chocolate and Wine Pairing

Dark chocolate tends to be the trickiest of the bunch to pair with wine. People have a tendency to pair it with heady red wines with huge personality. The tannins from both the chocolate and the wine amount to bitterness on the palate and leave an unpleasant and lingering dryness. You want a wine that matches the intensity without those extra grippy tannins. Full-bodied, fruity wines like zinfandel, merlot, malbec, and gamay are all good matches for dark chocolate.

How to Pair Chocolate and Wine

Chocolate and wine pairings take a little extra consideration to get it right and create a really sensational, well-balanced match. First, start with the basics.

Wine degustation with chocolates

Think About Sugar Content

Sweetness in food tends to actually make a wine taste less fruity and sweet and more bitter, astringent, and harsh. So when thinking about your chocolate and wine pairing, keep in mind the sugar content. Sugary chocolate is going to be best paired with either a dessert wine or a wine that nearly resembles a dessert wine. While this might sound like a sickly sweet option, the sugar in the chocolate will almost cancel out the sugar in the wine, and the whole pairing will come into balance.

Avoid Tannic Wines

Regardless of media showcasing a dark chocolate bar carefully staged next to the glass of red wine, the two aren't exactly meant to be. The mega combination of tannins from dark chocolate and a heady wine is out of balance and can leave an overarching bitterness and astringency on your palate. It's best to stick with wines that are softer on the palate, with more of a juicy vibe.

Match Intensities

Thinking of your food and wine on a spectrum of intensity or body and matching similar with similar is often a good idea. This is true when pairing chocolate and wine as well, though it can be a little bit trickier to think about. If you think about chocolate in terms of richness, white chocolate is intensely rich and can therefore be paired with an equally full-bodied wine. Whereas a 99.8% dark chocolate bar is thinner in body but has other strong traits.

Consider Additions to Your Chocolate

If you are pairing your wine with something like a chocolate brownie and ice cream, chocolate-covered strawberries, or a bar studded with salted almonds, you'll want to consider how those additional flavors and textures interact with the wine. Something like strawberries add a pleasant acidity which is very wine friendly, but if you are eating something rich and creamy, like chocolate ice cream, you'll want to find a lower acid wine so as to avoid an unpleasant puckering sensation.

Making That Perfect Match

Chocolate and wine can be a bit of a tricky one to get right, but when you consider a few key elements to the pairing, you can make some dreamy matches that will impress your taste buds and your company.

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Chocolate and Wine Pairing Tips for an Indulgent Duo