The best wines to pair with chocolate
Chocolate and wine pairing may sometimes be a challenging experience as the flavours aren’t always that compatible. It all depends on how much cocoa solid is used, as the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content. Cocoa brings out bitterness in the chocolate. The majority of dessert wines have high acidity to prevent them from being overtly cloying, but the bitterness of cocoa clashes with this balancing acidity and can create exaggerated bitter, sour flavours.
Many wine lovers are unsure about chocolate and wine pairing, however, chocolate is a little bit like wine. The taste of chocolate will depend on the country of production and the country of origin of the cocoa beans. For example Belgian chocolate tends to contain more cream, French, German and Italian chocolate contains more cocoa solid, industrial British chocolate contains more cocoa butter and sugar, Swiss chocolate contains more milk…
In general, fortified sweet wines go very well with chocolate. Alcohol is added to the wine to replace the balancing acidity that is typical of dessert wines. For this reason, port and dark chocolate is often acknowledged as a successful pairing. The fruitiness of a young port pairs very well with good quality dark chocolate or chocolate-based desserts.
Key learning: when matching sweet food, you need to remember that the wine needs to be sweeter than the food itself.
- Dark Chocolate minimum 50% cocoa solid: intense, richly-flavoured dark chocolate
Best pairing: very sweet, dark coloured, fortified wines or low tannin, rich, smooth red wines (Tawny Port, Ruby Port, Banyuls, Maury, Spanish Pedro Ximenez, Australian Liqueur Muscat, Australian Sparkling Shiraz, Reciotto della Valpolicella…)
- Milk chocolate: higher percentage of sugar and up to 40% cocoa solid
Best pairing: lighter wines than those selected for dark chocolate but still very sweet (Rivesaltes Ambré, Muscats / Moscatel, Moscato d’Asti, Tawny Port, Australian Topaque…)
- White chocolate: made without cocoa solid (thus not technically a true chocolate), white chocolate is a rich product made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids.
Best pairing: more traditional dessert wines (Sweet Gewürztraminer, Moscato d’Asti, botrytis or noble rot dessert wines (Sauternes, Monbazillac, Hungarian Tokaji, Noble Late Harvest), white Muscat, Italian Passito….)
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