Wine chocolate pairing can be tricky because the intense flavors of chocolate can overwhelm the wine. Fortunately, there are easy ways to pair wine and chocolate by following these seven steps, even if you are not a wine professional.
How to Pair Wine and Chocolate in 7 Easy Steps
1 Choose your wine
Since this blog focuses on wine, you will choose wine first. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- White Wines: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer
- Red Wines: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel
In terms of wine style, avoid dry wines. Instead, look for a sweet style of wine. You’re not limited to a dessert wine like Canadian ice wine or French Sauternes. We’re looking for a wine that can keep up with the sweetness in chocolate.
2 Choose your chocolate by cacao content
Dark chocolate lovers, you’re in luck! As a general rule, darker chocolate is the way to go. If your personal taste favors white chocolate or milk chocolate, this is your opportunity to taste something new.
To keep life simple, choose a bar of pure chocolate for tasting. That means avoiding most candy bars like Snickers that involve multiple elements. Instead, you want to choose a chocolate with a percentage cacao on the label. For example, look for a chocolate that states something like “72% cacao”(i.e., percentage of cocoa) on the label. If the label does not clearly describe cacao content, keep looking.
3 Double the chocolate ingredients
Before you buy your chocolate, take a closer look at the ingredient list on the package. For our purposes, you want to see chocolate listed as the first ingredient. Ideally, you want to see a shortlist of ingredients beyond chocolate. If there is a long list of ingredients like strange chemical compounds, put it down and pick up something else. You don’t have to break the bank either. Expect to pay somewhere between $15 to $30 for a decent quality darker chocolate.
What if you like flavored chocolates, chocolate with nuts, or peanut butter cups? These are undoubtedly tasty snacks! The challenge of such typical chocolates comes down to quality. To see the difference, experiment by picking up candy-style chocolate like peanut butter cups and quality darker chocolate. If you are unfamiliar with darker chocolates, the bitter flavors might come as a surprise but stay with it!
4 Match wine and chocolate based on intensity
Wine and chocolate both vary in intensity. Specifically, keep the following pairing suggestions in mind.
Light body wines like Riesling, pinot noir, Gamay, and pinot grigio should go with lighter wines. For example, Eataly suggests pairing white chocolate (a personal favorite of mine) with lighter white wines.
Contrast is not your friend when it comes to wine and chocolate combinations. Instead, you need to align on sugar levels. A chocolate with a high sugar level needs a comparably sweet wine.
5 Taste from light to dark
As an alternative to step 4, there is another way to approach pairing. Combine light with light and dark with dark. If you can see through the wine, it is a light wine and would probably go better with light chocolate.
Those who love rich body red wines like fortified wines (e.g., a Port or a Tawny Port), Chianti, or Chinato suggest you choose dark chocolate. Further, Wine Folly suggests pairing white chocolate with dry red wines like Beaujolais from France, ice wine, or Moscato d’Asti.
By tasting in small quantities, you can get a better sense of the flavor profile of the chocolate and wines. If you choose a vintage port, a ruby port, or some other excellent port, taking small sips is even more critical because those wines have a much higher alcohol content than other wines.
6 Start small with your chocolate wine pairings
I recommend starting small – a sip of wine and then a tiny piece of chocolate such as a square to savor the experience. There are no prizes for consuming the most chocolate or wine in the least amount of time. By tasting a sip of wine and then a small bite of chocolate slowly, you’ll appreciate both further.
Tip: Tempted to eat all of the chocolate immediately? If you are hungry for a meal, eat a full meal first. After cleaning up, a wine and chocolate pairing can be an enjoyable dessert experience.
7 Take note of which pairings you enjoy and why
The final step is to take a few notes about your experience. You can use the notes app on your phone or a notebook to record your experience. For example, did you taste different elements of the chocolate over time? How did the wine taste as it continued to warm up? If you choose a sparkling wine, think about how the bubbles interacted with the chocolate.
Taking a few minutes to journal about your experience deepens the experience. If you find a pairing you love, you’ll know how to recreate it (and you can also avoid a bad wine pairing). I almost always keep a detailed journal when I travel, and I recommend it for tasting as well.
Answers To Three Common Wine and Chocolate Questions
There are a few more questions you might have about wine and chocolate to keep in mind.
1 What chocolate goes with rose wine?
The research points in two directions. Assuming you are drinking still rose wine, choose dark chocolate. Alternatively, if you have a rose port, take a closer look at white chocolate.
2 What has more calories wine or chocolate?
This is a tricky question because quantities and serving sizes vary so widely. Let’s keep it simple. The average glass of wine may contain 100 calories at the low end and up to 240 calories at the high end. By convention, there are five glasses of wine in a standard 750 ml bottle. Therefore, drinking half of a bottle of wine may amount to close to 500 calories.
According to Harvard University, dark chocolate is relatively high in calories: 150-170 calories per once. Harvard also suggests choosing 70% or higher dark chocolate for health reasons. Aside from calories, it is also important to remember that chocolate contains some caffeine. If you choose a chocolate with a filling such as nuts, cream, or nougat, calories may go up even further.
3 Does chocolate go with white wine?
Yes, chocolate can go with white wine. For the best experience, keep the following tips in mind. Dry white wines generally do not combine successfully with wine. If you are used to mainly drinking dry white wines, you may need to branch out to new wine styles and grape varieties. The guiding principle is to make sure your wine is a bit sweeter than your chocolate.
Three white wine and chocolate pairing suggestions:
- Champagne goes with white chocolate (curious about the champagne wine region?).
- Semi-sweet chocolate goes with Muscat.
- Milk chocolate goes well with a lighter sauvignon blanc or Riesling.
Don’t let your wine and chocolate pairing education stop here. To learn more, I recommend the following podcast episode: “How to Pair Wine and Chocolate with Chocolate Sommelier Roxanne Browning,” hosted by Natalie Maclean. Note that Browning takes a different approach, like largely avoiding milk chocolate.