Wine and chocolate was, until recently, thought to be an almost impossible match. Chocolate, due to its characteristics - from the bitterness of the cocoa to the fattiness of the cocoa butter -was often paired with spirits and for Italians, the perfect match was grappa
on all its versions.
From single origin to single estate, an 80% dark chocolate flavours change depending on where the cocoa comes from, to different percentages, chocolate has become much more than just dark or milk or white and because of that, wine and chocolate not only are now paired, but it is an exciting exercise for all wine and chocolate lovers.
There are a few basic rules to follow and then it is all about trial and error and personal preferences. A wine and chocolate tasting always start from the lightest chocolate, white and milk first, all the way up to very dark chocolate; chocolate should never be sweeter than the wine otherwise the taste of the wine will be sour.
The first rule, it may seem obvious, it is to buy good quality chocolate
. Good chocolate tends to have very little sugar added and higher cocoa content.
Another general rule says that the darker the chocolate, the “darker” the wine must be, e.g. a really dark chocolate requires an aged, structured, full body red wine. If you prefer a white wine, it is better to choose a rich, fruity wine so that its flavours blend with the complex taste of the chocolate. It is particularly important that any wine you choose has soft and round tannins, chocolate already contains tannins and the darker the chocolate the more tannins it has, therefore, with very dark chocolate the softness and smoothness of the wine becomes essential.
These are our guidelines when pairing wine and chocolate, both need to be tasted individually beforehand:
White chocolate can be paired with a fruity Chardonnay or a Moscato d'Asti, even a Moscato Passito. These wines stand out the buttery and fatty notes of white chocolate. Another possible match could be an aged white wine, a white wine rich in tannins that can help mitigate the buttery and fatty notes.
For milk chocolate there are more choices, from Merlot to Pinot Noir, from Riesling to dessert wines. Franciacorta or classic method sparkling wines are just as good, the bubbles and the dry notes perfectly contrast the creaminess of a milk chocolate bar. When pairing milk chocolate with wine, it is important to remember the general rule, chocolate should never be sweeter than the wine otherwise the taste of the wine will be sour. Most industrial or commercial chocolate tends to have very high sugar content, hence it become important the quality of the chocolate. Aged white and passiti wines are also a good solution.
Dark chocolate up to 70% cocoa can be paired with full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Primitivo, Ripasso, or passiti such as Vin Santo and Recioto della Valpolicella. A Chianti can be a good match for a chocolate with a cocoa content of around 60%.
Dark chocolate over 70% cocoa has a bitter and very intense taste, chocolate lovers love them, so they need a very smooth, alcoholic, full and fruity red wine. Suggestions are Syrah, Primitivo, Amarone or fortified wines such as Marsala Superiore.
Pairing wine and chocolate is an exciting and fun game to do, alone or with friends, and our guidelines are only a starting point, it is ultimately down to your personal taste.