Wine and chocolate… It sounds like heaven on Earth, but there are a few things to keep in mind with regards to this delectable combination to fully enjoy your experience. Often times people will auto-pilot red wine with their chocolate, paying no mind to things like the wine’s dryness, or how sweet or unsweet the chocolate is. Remember, chocolate is highly prized for its intense flavor profiles. Some can be sweet, acidic, bitter, and fruity all at the same time. That’s a lot for your palate to take on even before the olfactory experience the wine can offer. Here are a few key things to keep in mind before pouring a table red with your chocolate lava cake at your next dinner party.
First things first: dessert. When dealing with sweet chocolate presentations like chocolate mousse, ganache, or custards, it is always best to go for a sweet wine that compliments the dish and its additional components . You can pair with something like Banyuls if you want sweet and fruity, Tokaji if you desire something sweet and honeyed, or Sauternes if you require sweet and floral. You do not want a big, dry cab as it will send your palate into overload and confuse your sense.
When pairing with cacao, you should always try the chocolate first and make notes of the flavors you get. If they are available, defer to the chocolatiers notes the way you’d look to a winemakers notes about their wine. Usually it is best to find a big, fruity red with similar or complimenting flavor notes for your brick of chocolate. White wine, and lighter reds like Pinot Noir will most likely taste like nothing as the chocolate itself is more intense than the wine.
When chocolate is used in a savory dish like a mole sauce over chicken, the pairing opportunities crack wide open. Here is a wonderful place for chocolate to play around with Syrah, Grenache (Garnacha), Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, Malbec, or Merlot. Best with bigger reds, you should still avoid Pinot Noir as the spice component in the dish may go on overload when the spice of the wine kicks in. Think earthy, black pepper, graphite, chocolate or espresso notes, and bold dark fruits from your wine to fully experience the potential of pairing with chocolate in this form.
“Life is like a box of chocolates…” In an uncertain world, there is one piece of certainty. Good Madeira. When faced with the foreboding box of treats with little or no knowledge as to what flavors they are, leave alone what wine will go with any or all of them, enter Madeira. Vietnamese Pink Peppercorn chocolates? Madeira. Champagne truffles? Madeira. Marzipan filled chocolates? Madeira. You get where we are going with this. Make sure this isn’t a Madeira for cooking, we’d recommend spending at least $20 on your Madeira for pairing in this manner, possibly more. It will be worth every penny!