So you find yourself with a tempting brick of dark chocolate in one hand, the other aimlessly gliding across a full wine rack, unsure of which bottle to pull.
What wine goes best with chocolate?
As one of only a few Carmel Valley wineries who hosts visiting wine lovers from all over the country, we have learned that pairing wine with chocolate can be a tricky endeavor, even the devoted wine enthusiast. Due to its sweetness, as well as the various types available, the wrong combination can produce an unpleasant and often bitter tasting experience.
That’s why we’ve created an in-depth guide to help you select the ideal glass of wine for whatever type of chocolate treat you find yourself enjoying and bring out the delicious and complex flavors of both items.
The Basics of Wine Pairing
In order to begin pairing, there are a few helpful rules that can make selecting an appropriate wine much easier.
- Find the balance: with wine, there are several important characteristics that apply to taste and composition. These include:
Balancing these flavors with similar or oppositional tasting foods creates a more complex experience. Mixing and matching these flavors together also opens up many different pairing possibilities that you can experiment with. For example, if you’re trying to pair a sweet white chocolate, go for an equally sweet Ice Wine.
- Wine first: when tasting pairings together, it is recommended that you sip the selected wine first. This is especially true when tasting chocolate and wine, as chocolate is typically a much sweeter taste.
Potential Wine & Chocolate Pairings
Because of the number of different chocolate flavors, it is important to look at chocolate and wine pairings in categories.
While a rich Cabernet may go wonderfully with extra dark chocolate, it would be far too bitter for a white chocolate. Because of this diversity in flavor, our guide is organized by chocolate category to bring you unique and well-balanced pairings.
Dark Chocolate: Generally chocolate is defined as ‘dark’ if it contains more than about 40% cocoa, but there are is a considerable range of products available from 35% to 99%.
- Smooth Dark chocolate, containing around 54% or less of cocoa, is typically the most popular type of dark chocolate as it balances the amount of sweetness with more bitter natural cocoa.
- Try our award-winning 2012 Estate Grown Pinot Noir (2), which received a silver placement in the San Francisco Wine Competition, the largest competition of American wines.
- Medium Dark chocolate contains around 60% cocoa and as opposed to smooth dark, goes best with drier reds such as:
- Pinot Noir (14)
- Merlot (15)
- Extra Dark chocolate pairs similarly to medium dark chocolate because of their relatively high percentages of cocoa. For chocolate that is above 70% cocoa, dry wines are an excellent selection, including:
- Cabernet sauvignon (15)
- Zinfandel (15)
Milk Chocolate typically contains less than 35% cocoa and is a creamier, sweeter variety, making it a better match for slightly sweeter reds, such as:
- Creamy Sherry
- Aged Vintage Port
White Chocolate exchanges cocoa butter for cocoa powder, giving it a unique taste compared to other traditional chocolates. This sugary delight is complimented best by sweeter wines and may bring out the more subtle fruity or nutty notes in them. These might include:
- Our Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Sweet Love, is a Sauterne inspired dessert wine that is the perfect blend of sweet & tart.
- Ice Wine(13)
- Champagne (2)
Wine not only tastes spectacular with solid chocolate, it can also enhance flavored chocolates.
The key with flavored chocolates is finding wines that pair well with the flavor within the chocolate first, then looking at the type of chocolate itself.
Classic Caramel & Dark Chocolate is a perfect match for our late-harvest Pinot Noir, like our warm and robust Big Daddy with prominent dark chocolate notes, has a subtle sweetness to it that strikes a pleasant balance between the more sugary caramel and the slightly bitter dark chocolate. (3)
- Cabernet Sauvignon with dark chocolate covered almonds (11)
- Marie Claire suggests Pinot Noir with Snickers! Given how well this delicious wine compliments caramel and chocolate, it’s not a big surprise. Try our 2011 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir with this snack.
Mint & Dark Chocolate is one of the more sophisticated types of chocolates to pair with. Try with Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. (12)
Fudge is typically much richer and sweeter than traditional chocolate. A Michigan fudge maker recommends Tawny Port for milk chocolate fudge and Beaujolais, Cabernet Sauvigon, Bordeaux, Merlot, and Zinfandel for darker chocolate fudges.
Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate pair best with wines that will bring out the natural nuttiness. Some have found that Peanut Butter Cups pair especially well with wines such as Riesling (10)
Salted Carmel & Milk Chocolate plays on the ever popular pairing of sweet and salty. For an excellent wine pairing, the wine should be congruent with the chocolate and balance out the salt. Some options include:
- Moscato d’Asti (9)
- Lambrusco (9)
Chocolate Covered Fruits
Pairing with both fruit and chocolate simultaneously could leave any casual wine drinker guessing. These tips will help you find the right fit.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries, is there anyone who doesn’t adore them? This fruit fusion pairs well with wines that bring out the strawberry flavor, such as:
- Chardonnay (1)
- Red Zinfandel (8)
- Rose Champagne (8)
Orange-Infused Dark Chocolate is complimented best by white wines with citrus notes, according to She Knows.
- Our 2013 Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc is a nice choice (1)
- Chardonnay can also make a nice pairing (1)
- Malbec (11)
Chocolate blueberries pair wonderfully with Merlot, which can help to bring out the sweetness of the blueberry flavor. (17)
Raspberry & Dark Chocolate or Raspberry Truffles are incredibly rich and sweet. Because of this, they can pair well with lighter, sweet whites or full-bodied reds with fruit flavors, such as:
- Cabernet Sauvignon (1)
- Sparkling Brachetto (7)
Cordial Cherries produce triple the sweetness with milk chocolate, syrup center and sweet cherries. Pairs with red varietals that can bring out the unique cherry flavor. These blends include:
- Port (4)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (5)
- Syrah (5)
The Unexpected Twist
Chocolate Covered Bacon has grown in popularity in recent years. With the flavors of salty & sweet playing off each other, possible pairings include:
- Riesling (6)
- Chardonnay (6)
Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans work well with Shiraz due its natural mocha flavors. (16 & 17)
#HolmanRanchWine – Share Your Favorite Chocolate & Wine Pairings with Us
While they are certainly some helpful guidelines for discovering what wine goes with chocolate, you may find that the answer depends heavily on your own personal preferences, not to mention the unique type of chocolate you’re enjoying.
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with combinations you suspect will have a nice finish.
When you uncover your winning wine and chocolate pairing, tells us about it in the comments below or share on Instagram with hashtag #HolmanRanchWine.