Wine for Dessert: How to Pair Chocolate and Wine


Bar of Chocolate and Wine Glass

Everybody loves chocolate, not only as dessert after an excellent dinner but also as a snack when enjoying a good book or movie. And wine lovers enjoy combining chocolate and wine. Pairing the two can be challenging, but when you find the right chocolate and wine pairing, you can create fascinating culinary experiences.

The best wine to pair with chocolate is similarly intense and low in tannins. Sweet wines are good picks in most cases, but dry wines can work as well.

The chocolate’s flavor profile is the deciding factor. By discussing the following pairings, we will clarify that:

Before we talk about the specific wine and chocolate pairings, let us discuss some general rules.

GENERAL RULES FOR WINE AND CHOCOLATE PAIRINGS

When pairing chocolate and wine, there are a couple of things you need to have in mind:

  • Intensity matters. Match intensely flavored chocolate with flavorful wines and chocolate with subtle aromas with lighter wines.
  • The tannins in wine do not harmonize with the polyphenols in chocolate and create very bitter experiences. Thus, you should avoid very tannic wines.
  • Try to match flavors to create complementing pairings. For instance, combine nutty chocolates with wines that have nutty aromas.
  • Sweet wines typically are great pairings as long as they are slightly sweeter than the chocolate. Dry wines work only rarely.

In the following paragraphs, we will cover more specific chocolate and wine pairings in detail. So read on to learn about the best matches.

Milk Chocolate and Wine

Milk chocolate is what most people have in mind when talking about chocolate. It is made from cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder. Because the milk powder gives the chocolate a creamy taste and texture and contributes to the light-brown color, it is an essential ingredient.

Milk chocolate is always sweet, but the level can vary. While high-quality styles typically have a rather subtle sweetness, many affordable chocolates are extremely sweet. To pair these flavors with wine, you have several options.

Off-dry and semi-sweet whites are one of them. For instance, look for an off-dry Riesling. Auslese and Spätlese wines from Germany are excellent choices. They are light and delicate and feature crisp, fruity aromas combined with delicious sweetness:

Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 8.5%

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2016

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Rheingau
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 7.5%

J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 9.0%

For sparkling wine lovers, Moscato d’Asti is a great option. This sweet semi-sparkler from Italy is light in alcohol, offers bright fruit flavors and an exciting fizz. These characteristics work fantastically with the milk chocolate’s texture and emphasize its subtle fruity and floral notes.

Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2020

  • type: white, semi-sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Muscat
  • alcohol: 6.0%

Vietti Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta 2020

  • type: white, semi-sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Muscat
  • alcohol: 5.5%

Ruffino Moscato d’Asti 2020

  • type: white, semi-sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Muscat
  • alcohol: 6.0%

Very intense chocolates are great with sweet fortified wines such as Ruby Port. The wine from Portugal features fruity and nutty flavors and often chocolate notes. Logically, it is a perfect match for milk chocolate. The same is true for sweet Madeira wines.

Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira

  • type: red, fortified, medium-dry
  • origin: Portugal, Madeira
  • varietal: Tinta Negra Mole
  • alcohol: 18.0%

Blandys 5 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

  • type: white, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Portugal, Madeira
  • varietal: Malmsey
  • alcohol: 19.0%

Blandy’s 5 Year Old Bual Madeira

  • type: white, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Portugal, Madeira
  • varietal: Bual
  • alcohol: 19.0%

There are some dry wines to pair with milk chocolate as well. They tend to go only with lighter chocolates that are not too intensely sweet. You can pair these with fruity, light-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir or Gamay.

Duboeuf Julienas Chateau des Capitans 2020

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Gamay
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Domaine Passot Fleurie 2020

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Gamay
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Jean-Paul et Charly Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2021

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Gamay
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Dark Chocolate and Wine

Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate is not intensely sweet. Instead, it has perceivable bitter flavors that sometimes are accompanied by spicy or fruity notes. These bittersweet aromas come from the cocoa content. More specifically, the solids of cocoa beans are naturally bitter. And logically, a higher cocoa content contributes to more bitterness. While milk chocolate has a cocoa content of not more than 40%, dark chocolate can have up to 100%.

Dark chocolate is a bit harder to pair with wines than other types because it can easily overpower light wines. Thus, you need something bold and rich. In addition, you should stay away from tannic wines because they clash with the polyphenols that give the chocolate its bitter notes.

The safe pairing for dark chocolate is a sweet fortified wine. Particularly Pedro Ximénez and Cream Sherries from Southern Spain are good matches. With their aromas of nuts, dried fruits, and spices, they create exciting contrasts to the chocolate’s bitter notes.

Osborne Cream Sherry

  • type: white, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Spain, Andalusia
  • varietal: Pedro Ximénez
  • alcohol: 17.0%

Osborne VORS Venerable 1902 VORS Pedro Ximenez Sherry

  • type: white, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Spain, Andalusia
  • varietal: Pedro Ximénez
  • alcohol: 17.0%

Alvear Solera Cream

  • type: white, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Spain, Andalusia
  • varietal: Pedro Ximénez
  • alcohol: 17.0%

Lighter chocolate variations with up to 60% cocoa can work well with dry reds such as Pinot Noir. It typically has low levels of tannins but intense fruit flavors, making it a superb pairing.

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 15.0%

DuMOL Wester Reach Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 14.0%

White Chocolate and Wine

White chocolate is a special type of chocolate that lacks the typical brown color. The Swiss company Nestlé was the first to introduce this ivory-colored chocolate in 1945. Its color resulted from a lack of cocoa mass that producers usually add to their chocolate liquor when making milk chocolate. Instead, they only use cocoa butter which does not contribute color. Other ingredients for white chocolate are sugar, milk solids, and in some cases, vanilla.

Although similar in texture, white chocolate is more mellow and buttery in flavor than milk chocolate. Actually, it might not taste chocolate-like at all. Some variations feature subtle floral or fruity notes or aromas of vanilla or honey.

Pairing white chocolate and wine is not hard, as the chocolate is very wine-friendly. Most wines that pair well with milk chocolate are proper matches for white chocolate. So consider the formerly mentioned semi-sweet Rieslings or Moscato sparkling wines.

Bar of White Chocolate
White Chocolate

Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 8.5%

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2016

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Rheingau
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 7.5%

J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 9.0%

If you like it even sweeter, think about ice wines. These highly concentrated wines made from frozen grapes often have a syrup-like texture. They feature flavors of honey, nuts, and tropical and dried fruits.

Check out these ice wines from Canada:

Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2019

  • type: white, dessert wine, Vintage
  • origin: Canada, Ontario
  • varietal: Vidal
  • alcohol: 9.5%

Tomasello Vidal Ice Wine 2019

  • type: white, dessert wine, Vintage
  • origin: USA, New Jersey
  • varietal: Vidal
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2019

  • type: red, dessert wine, Vintage
  • origin: Canada, Ontario
  • varietal: Cabernet France
  • alcohol: 9.5%

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Pure chocolate is delicious, but many people also enjoy mixing it with other aromas. And you can find many different types of flavored chocolates. Depending on the additional flavors, they pair well with various wines.

For many people, strawberries with a chocolate cover are the right dessert for a romantic dinner. They offer an explosion of sweet and fruity aromas.

Chocolate-covered strawberries are just perfect with a glass of sweet sparkling wine. Try a Lambrusco or a Brachetto from Italy. Both come with delicate fruity aromas and fine bubbles. Start with these styles:

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2020

  • type: red, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 11.0%

Bertolani Lambrusco Dolce

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Venturini Baldini Marchese Manodori Lambrusco

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Alasia Brachetto d’Acqui 2020

  • type: red, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Brachetto
  • alcohol: 5.5%

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Brachetto
  • alcohol: 7.0%

Braida Brachetto d’Acqui 2020

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Piedmont, Italy
  • varietal: Brachetto
  • alcohol: 5.5%

Mint Chocolate and Wine

Great Britain is famous for its mint chocolate. Adding mint to chocolate sounds odd initially, but it is genuinely an interesting combination of sweet, herbal, subtly spicy, and bitter flavors.

Syrah is exactly the right wine to pair with mint chocolate. It is not too tannic or acidic. Thus, it will not numb the chocolate’s flavors. Besides, it adds delicious fruity flavors to the culinary experience. In some cases, Syrah also features notes of herbs, flowers, and sometimes chocolate that complement the mint chocolate superbly. These bottles are worth trying:

Jean-Louis Chave Selection Saint-Joseph Offerus 2018

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Syrah
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Syrah
  • alcohol: 15.0%

M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon 2006

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Syrah
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Caramel Chocolate and Wine

Caramel is another common ingredient that is delicious when covered with chocolate. Caramel is basically burnt sugar, so it is also sweet. But the production process creates many additional flavors, including buttery, nutty, fruity, and subtle sour notes.

When paired with chocolate, these aromas open the door for pairings with Tawny Port wines. These concentrated fortified wines from Portugal have a vibrant sweetness with intense flavors of nuts, dried fruits, and caramel.

Sandeman 30 Year Old Tawny

  • type: red, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Portugal, Douro
  • varietal: Sousão, Tinto Cão, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
  • alcohol: 20.0%

Taylor Fladgate 40 Year Tawny Port

  • type: red, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Portugal, Douro
  • varietal: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
  • alcohol: 20.0%

Sandeman Vintage Port 2016

  • type: red, fortified, sweet
  • origin: Portugal, Douro
  • varietal: Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
  • alcohol: 21.0%

FINAL WORDS

Chocolate dishes for dinner are fantastic, and they get even better with the right wine to accompany them. With the examples from this article, you are definitely ready to compose the best chocolate and wine pairings. Enjoy!

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