Chocolate may be the dessert par excellence. This “food of the gods” can be enjoyed in many forms, from a pure slab of dark chocolate to milk chocolate pudding, decadent chocolate cakes or choco-chip cookies. For many, it’s the only way to end a meal. When preparing a multi-course meal with wine pairings, or if you just want to make your meal a bit “sweeter”, the difficult issue of chocolate and wine pairing comes up.
What is it about chocolate that makes us so happy? For a food composed of about 50% sugar and 35% fat, you’d think it were bad for you, but especially dark chocolate has a lot in common with wine in terms of its containing polyphenols, tannins and flavonoids. And this makes chocolate a strong antioxidant that helps reduce cholesterol. Plus, cocoa contains “happiness drugs” like phenethylamine and theobromine which increase the level of pleasure-causing serotonin in our brains.
So if chocolate on its own may make us happy for scientific reasons, it also simply tastes delicious! And we can’t resist wanting to pair it with another thing that makes us happy: wine! The problem is that getting the right chocolate and wine pairing can be challenging. Many times chocolate’s bitterness and persistence make it difficult to find a vinous complement. Generally, we’re going to have to follow the rule of similarity, that is, pair the sweet chocolate with a sweet wine. Another rule of thumb is that, due to the great structure of chocolate-based desserts, these will require a robust wine, if not a liquor.
The following are some ideas of which chocolate and wine pairings to adopt.
- 95% dark chocolate slab: only with a good concentrated dark chocolate can we get away with a full bodied red wine like a Brunello di Montalcino. Otherwise we have to move to sweet wines if not port or liquors. If you don’t feel daring, a Barolo Chinato is a mature yet sweeter option.
- With a Sacher torte or other dense chocolate cake based on dark cocoa, this requires a sweet wine with distinctive structure, like a vin santo or an occhio di pernice.
- A fluffy chocolate mousse flavoured with ginger and cinnamon would do well with a wine that can contrast the fatty sweetness but hold its own against the spices. A sweet red wine like a Recioto would do the trick.
- Strawberries dipped in chocolate: the Valentine’s day favourite is ideal with a rosato classic method.
- Where chocolate is filled with caramel, you can go wild with a complimentary wine pairing like a Passito di Pantelleria or other rich dessert wine, where caramel and dried fruit flavours are a dominant match with the chocolate itself.
- Milk chocolate’s aromatic nature makes it a good match for some Tuscan Vin Santo and other Italian sweet wines like a Moscato Passito from the Val d’Aosta – or go straight to a sherry or aged vintage port.