Chocolate is delicious and wine is delicious, but that doesn’t mean they are good bedfellows. Or is that mouthfellows? It’s a little like bacon. Bacon is delicious, and so is Pavlova, but that doesn’t they go well together. It also doesn’t mean we can’t find a way, and I’m sure many have tried.
Pairing chocolate and wine is a harder match than you might think. Of course when I say harder match, I just mean you’ll need to have a few practice runs, and that means eating and drinking, which is, of course lots of fun.
Chocolate, in general, is very sweet. If you think of something like Cadbury Dairy Milk, it needs something very sweet to not make the wine taste bitter. For this kind of pairing you need Rutherglen fortified, or something from Spain - PX sherry is great. These are dark, silky and sweet wines that will start to match with the sugar in the chocolate, but they will stop just short of being a perfect match as the chocolate really is on another level of sweetness.
Chocolate, as you know, comes in lots of different styles. The main differences are the percentage of cocoa, the addition of nuts, popping candy and other attractive embellishments are also common, but it’s the cocoa that we are interested in. As the percentage of cocoa goes up, the sweetness of the chocolate is reduced, and it seems more bitter, more chalky and more towards the savoury end of the spectrum. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the more it will start to work with dry wine, but you need to start at 70% cocoa for this to pair nicely. If you are one to enjoy bitter chocolate, then 70% and 80% cocoa chocolate bars will work with big wines like Shiraz and Cabernet
Sauvignon. If you want to move outside of the traditional grape varieties then malbec and sangiovese would also be worth exploring. These wines can have generous fruit expression (less so for the sangiovese), but they will also have a nice tannin element to go with the chalkiness of the cocoa.
If you are cooking with chocolate, making cakes or even brownies, then the addition of fruit like cherries and plums also mirror the fruit elements of the wine. Spiced chocolate desserts which include cinnamon and cloves and even nuts work really well, as these are common flavours that come from the wooden barrels that the wine is aged in.
If you are happy to have sweet wines, then the aforementioned Rutherglen
Muscats and Spanish “black” sherry are incredible with these types of dessert, as are more exclusive varietals like Barolo chinato. This is a spiced Barolo wine from Piedmont in Italy that is practically designed for chocolate, and in particular chocolate pan forte.
At the end of the day, or evening as it may be, the choice is yours. If you want to have a marshmallow-stuffed crusted chocolate bar with almost no cocoa and glass of Riesling, that is entirely up to you. It’s not recommended, however you have to try these things to find out what makes you happy. The key to these matches is balancing the sugar and cocoa. The sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine, and remember, half the fun is doing the trials.