Matching Chocolate with Wine
You may remember my brief look at wine to pair with chocolate as part of my Matching Easter Foods & Wine blog. In this wine blog I delve deeper into which wines pair well with chocolate but mainly with chocolate-based desserts. Whilst wine and chocolate sound as if they ought to go together - after all they are both products with which many of us reward ourselves or in which we seek comfort - I find it hard to imagine sitting down with a glass of wine and a bar of my favourite chocolate or a box of pralines.
Perhaps this is because chocolate can a challenge (something I didn't think I would ever say). It is a difficult food with which to pair wine - but it is not an impossible task.
Why is chocolate so hard to match with wine?
Generally speaking chocolate is sweet and wine is naturally acidic which makes it difficult to start pairing the two up. Sweet chocolate will make your wine taste more alcoholic, more acidic and even bitter. And if the wine is red, there is the potential for another almighty clash - with the tannins, which with sweet food can seem more prominent and even harsh.
Dark, cocoa-dominant, chocolate which has been becoming more popular in the UK in recent years is a little easier to match but even with that there is a problem. Dark chocolate can be very intensely flavoured and that can simply overwhelm the flavours in the wine you are drinking.
And I am only talking about plain chocolate here not the whole gamut of flavours added to chocolate these days like salted caramel, ginger, nuts etc as these bring a whole host of other pairing challenges with them.
There is also white chocolate of course though many would argue that this is not in fact chocolate - but if you are a fan of this type, don't worry, I give a couple of wine pairing suggestions for that too below.
Different types of chocolate and wines to match with them
Here are a few suggestions for wines (or other drinks) to go with the three main types of chocolate.
The milk-dominant chocolate that is especially popular in the UK (and thought of by some as an imposter) is sweet - and the sweeter something is, the more difficult it can be to match with wine. Remember the tip in my general Food & Wine Matching guidelines - always pair a sweet dish with a sweeter wine. This advice applies here too.
So for milk chocolate or lighter but sweet chocolate desserts look to wines like Moscato d'Asti which is sparkling and slightly sweet but also very refreshing - its acidity helps cut through the sweetness of milk chocolate and creamy chocolate-based desserts. Other wines that could also work well include still wines made from grapes that have been dried and are therefore sweeter like Recioto della Valpolicella or Amarone, a dessert wine like Sauternes or a sweet fortified wine like Vin Doux Naturel or a vin santo. Some say Pedro Ximénez sherry works well but personally - and here's a hot tip - I prefer a drizzle of PX on a good vanilla ice-cream. Delicious!
White chocolate is usually even sweeter than milk chocolate so follow the same guidance and find a wine sweeter than the food like the light, slightly sweet but crisp, sparkling wine, Moscato d'Asti already mentioned (also perfect with desserts like my lovely Lemon, Ricotta & Almond Cake) or a slightly off-dry Prosecco.
For a good dark chocolate (with minimum 70% cocoa) or a heavier dark chocolate dessert like a ganache, serve port. This is also in line with the advice in my Food & Wine Matching guidelines - to match heavier, richer dishes with wines with more body. The sweet, fruity and velvety character of a crusted port will work especially well - and if you like nutty & toffee flavours, a tawny port will fit the bill and even enhance the chocolate flavours. You might get away with some still red wines for example a wine produced from Touriga Nacional grapes, one of the main port grapes, or other wines known for their chocolate-like flavours such as a Zinfandel or a Barossa Valley Shiraz.
A few other chocolate & wine suggestions
Chocolate soufflé, though often made with dark chocolate, is usually lighter and less sweet than some chocolate-based desserts so would match well with champagne, white or rosé or a sparkling wine like Crémant de Bourgogne made by the champagne method.
For chocolate dishes that include alcohol such as rum, brandy or orange-flavoured liqueurs, serve a glass of that same alcohol to complement the dish.
For chocolate with dried fruit and nuts tawny port or Pedro Ximénez sherry make a great match.
For chocolate with salt e.g. a salted caramel brownie, beware because salt will reduce the acidity of your wine and make it seem quite flat and even flavourless so make sure that you have a wine with good acidity whether a dessert wine, a Prosecco or a Moscato d'Asti.
Chocolate desserts with lots of cream also need wines with good acidity to cut through the fatty cream.
For lighter chocolate puddings with fresh fruits such as raspberries, cherries or strawberries, a light dessert wine or Moscato d'Asti will complement the fruit as well as the sweetness of the pudding.
If the Easter Bunny visits me on Easter Sunday, I'll stick to a soft drink or a cup of tea with my egg and save the wine till later - I'll be opening a bottle of good Pinot Noir to have with my leg of lamb.
© Wines With Attitude Limited, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk
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