I put this tasting together for the Ideal Home Show this weekend and with Easter around the corner and chocolate aplenty everywhere, I thought I’d share it. Come and taste with me for free this weekend if you can make it to Olympia!
Why is wine and chocolate so difficult to match?
Chocolate, especially commercial milk chocolate, is a notoriously tricky match for wine because it coats your mouth, stripping normal, dry wine of its fruitiness, leaving it tasting bitter, lean and acidic. The chocolate’s own flavour can rarely stand up to the wine either so becomes pretty tasteless. High quality, less sweet chocolate on the other hand often has a more intense flavour and should leave your mouth feeling clean and energised rather than claggy, which makes for much happier matching. A wine tends to needs some sweetness to stand up to chocolate. Sweet wines appear less sweet when paired with chocolate too which can be a good thing if you generally find dessert or sweet wines a little too much.
3 tips for wine and chocolate pairing
- The sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine needs to be.
- The darker the chocolate, the less sweet the wine can be.
- Fortified wines go well because they are particularly rich and powerful, so can stand up to intense flavour, sugar and texture.
How to taste chocolate with wine
Taste the wine first, swirling to aerate it. Sniff it, then take in a large sip with some air, swirling it all around your mouth, over your teeth and gums. Breathe out through your nose and experience those aromas and flavours. Now take your piece of high quality chocolate, snap it in two and smell it. Allow it to slowly melt on your tongue, concentrating on the aromas and flavours as you breathe out through your nose. Taste the wine again now and see what effect it has.
Classic wine and chocolate pairings
For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a nutty, flavoured chocolate.
White chocolate is made using just the cocoa butter (fat) from the cocoa bean and is usually sweet and creamy. A light and frothy, sweet wine with fizz such as Moscato d’Asti can make a really pretty match. The grapey, floral notes of the wine enhance a slight orangey flavour in the chocolate. It’s a nice, low alcohol option too. I love this combination:
TRY: Asti Spumante Moscato d’Asti, £5.50 (bargain!) from Sainsbury’s with Fiona Sciolti’s Vanilla White Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.
Milk chocolate – both straight up and in chocolate mousse form – have sweetness and some darker, cocoa notes that need to be considered. Fortified red wines with lots of bright fruit flavours such as Ruby Port, Banyuls and Maury work well as they have enough sweetness to stand up to the chocolate flavour and enough power to cut through the texture. The wine still tastes fruity and the chocolate feels like velvet. Yes!
TRY: Fletcher’s Ruby Port, £6.49 ALDI (another bargain!) with Fiona Sciolti’s Cocoa Nibs & Sea Salt Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.
Dark Chocolate, especially if it’s flavoursome and not sweet will actually go with some still, dry red wines. The Syrah grape (aka Shiraz) is said to be a particularly good match because it makes wine that is fairly hefty and very fruity, but isn’t too dry and ‘tannic’. For something a little different, go for a sparkling Shiraz from Australia; it feels particularly indulgent and the fact that you serve the wine cold makes the combo surprisingly refreshing!
TRY: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz, £10 from Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets with Fiona Sciolti’s ‘Afrique’ 80% blended dark chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.
Hazelnut Praline is a very popular flavoured chocolate. It’s sweet, creamy and nutty, so needs something sweet and powerful, but if you can add a wine with a nutty flavour too, you will have a stunning pairing. Madeira is a white fortified wine with zingingly refreshing acidity and a characteristic hazelnut skin flavour.
TRY: Sainsbury’s Madeira, £7 for 35cl with Fiona Sciolti’s Hazelnut Praline Chocolate, £5 for 100g.
Do you have some amazing wine and choclate matches? Please share them with me here or tweet me @TheWinebird!