Throughout gastronomic history, chocolate has played a very special role for imparting its aphrodisiac properties. Its irresistible flavour makes it a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for a special someone. But when attempting to pair wine with chocolate, there are many oversights that one can make. This transforms a potentially romantic occasion to an absolute catastrophe. We want you to avoid such a disaster for every and any occasion with your special someone.
Here are three very simple steps to take before choosing a wine to pair with chocolate:
1. Check what is the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate. Is it 30%, 65% or 90%? The percentage of cocoa will give you some idea of the bitterness level of your chocolate. 30% is sweet, 60 to 70% is usually semi-sweet and anything higher than 70% is bitter. A bitter chocolate usually makes a red wine less bitter because of the overload of bitterness on the palate. Try a ripe red wine such as Californian Zinfindel or Italian Recioto della Valpolicella. For sweet chocolates, try a dessert style wine such as a simple Sauternes or a German Auslese Riesling.
2. Look at the fruit or ingredients that accompanied with the chocolate. Does your chocolate come with dried fruits? Is there caramel, vanilla or chilli in there? The additional ingredients in your chocolate make a difference in the wine you should pair with it. On the safe side, we try to pair a wine that has similar flavour profile with the ingredient. For example, fruit chocolate can be paired with fruity wines of a similar flavour profile. Nut chocolate can go well with Banyuls, tawny port or Pedro Ximenez sherry. Wines with contrasting flavours can work with the additional ingredient but this will require someone with experience to understand the dynamics of flavour.
3. Try to get some information about the richness of the chocolate. It’s that simple. More delicate chocolates such as milk chocolate and white chocolate (not really a genuine chocolate in the strictest sense because it does not contain cocoa solids) should not be paired with strong, full-bodied wines with high alcohol. Rich chocolates filled with concentration and oozing with goodness can go well with powerful reds such as Australian Shiraz or Napa Cabernet.
Nothing beats the experience of opening a box of chocolate yourself and tasting them with a couple of bottles. Both your special someone and you may be surprised to find that the perfect chocolate-wine pairing can go a long way in building wonderful memories in your relationship.
Shalom Chin holds a Wine Spirit Education Trust Diploma, a Masters in Gastronomy from the University of Gastronomic Science and is a Certified Sommelier. He has done vintages in Australia, Austria and Italy and has been involved with the wine industry for 13 years. He distributes boutique wines through his company, B.NU.