Although many a wine writer would disagree with me, I absolutely love wine and chocolate together, and I love playing with all of the combinations to see what flavors I like the best. (If I didn’t, then how else would I have come up with this chocolate and wine pairing with Butterfinger last summer?)
I do realize that not everyone has the patience I do to keep trying different combinations of wines or chocolates. Sometimes you just want to go with what you know will be good, especially when you are trying to impress someone on a Valentine’s Day date…even if that someone you want to impress is already your spouse. (Ya gotta keep the sparks going, right?)
Wine and Chocolate Pairing Guidelines
When you want a go-to guide for wine and chocolate pairing, here’s what you really need to know:
In general, your wine should be at least a touch sweeter than your chocolate. (This is also the case for other desserts, as well, and explains why wedding cake never complements the dry sparkling wine it is most often served with at weddings. Bleccchh! What a shame for both the bubbles and the cake! But I digress.)
When matching chocolate and wine, the darker, more bitter chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao typically goes with the more tannic, and bolder wines.
Following that rule, here are a few successful pairings:
- Milk chocolate with sweet Riesling or dessert wines
- Dark chocolate with Merlot or Petit Syrah
- Dark semisweet chocolate with Merlot or Pinot Noir
- Dark bittersweet chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel
Now that you know the rules, though, I’d like to encourage you to give them a try and play around with them a bit. Wine is meant to be explored and, just like you and I may not agree on our favorite wines, we might also not agree on our favorite wine and chocolate pairings.
Trying It Out
Just last night I had some friends over to try out a few wine and chocolate pairings to find out what they thought as compared to my impressions. We opened up a few bottles of wine and a few different chocolates to see what we might like.
First, here are the wines we opened:
- Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir, 2011- $23 at Kroger
- Little Black Dress California Merlot, 2010- $10 at Kroger
- Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 (Yes, this is Dave Matthews’ wine)- $13 at Kroger
- Decoy Sonoma County Zinfandel, 2010, $27 on Wine.com
And these are the chocolates we tried:
- Dove Dark Chocolate Promises
- Dove Milk Chocolate Promises
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
- Godiva 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt
- Chocolate Truffles (Mine were store bought, but here’s a great recipe for homemade chocolate truffles.)
With the Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, I loved both the truffles and the Dove Dark Chocolate Promises. Each chocolate brought out a different flavor in the wine, though, so the effects were different. For example, I thought that the truffles really made the cherry notes of the Pinot Noir shine.
My husband and neighbor disagreed with me on the best pairings for the Little Black Dress Merlot. I liked it with the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but the other two did not. We all agreed it was a good match with the Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, though.
My husband and I both liked the Dreaming Tree Cabernet with the Butterfinger candy bar. Typical wine and chocolate pairing guidelines would tell us to match it with a darker chocolate, like the 70% Cacao, but there was something about that Butterfinger which made that pairing even more delicious! We also liked it with the dark chocolate and sea salt.
The Decoy Zinfandel was a perfect match for the Godiva 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, but not the darker chocolate as one might expect. Perhaps I’m just not one for that bitter of a chocolate!
I think the best way to find out what you like is to give a few combinations a try. And I can almost guarantee doing this on a date night or even with a group of friends can be a lot of fun. Open up a few different bottles of red wine, pull out some different chocolates and see what YOU like best.
I’d love to hear about your favorite wine and chocolate combinations in the comments so I can give them a try myself. What do you like?
Valentine’s Chocolates Photo Credit