tips for pairing wine with chocolate
I absolutely love a glass of good full-bodied Malbec wine with a piece of deep dark chocolate. It is a match made in heaven, as Argentinian Malbec offers an abundance of slightly acidic fruity notes, primarily those of dark red and purple fruit. Pair that with dark chocolate made from cocoa beans grown in Peru or Madagascar–which both also feature acidic fruity notes–and your taste buds will thank you forever. If I’m pairing wine with chocolate, that is one of my favourite combinations.
It is my practice and preference to pair like with like. I love to pair the big bold red wines (such as Malbec) with 72% or higher pure dark chocolate that offers a big bold flavour of its own.
This brings into play the principle of terroir, simply defined as how a particular growing region’s climate, soil, and terrain affect the taste of wine.
Just as in wine, where the soil and climate that the grapes are grown in will affect the ultimate flavour of the wine produced from those grapes, the same is true in the production of chocolate.
As mentioned, Peru and Madagascar are two countries best known for the fruitiness and mild acidity of their cacao. I know firsthand that in Peru, this is primarily because the cacao is grown in amongst fruit trees such as mango, papaya, and banana that help enrich the soil and provide protection to the delicate cacao trees which can’t take too much direct sun and are prone to disease. I’ve not yet been to Madagascar to investigate growing conditions there, but you can bet it’s near the top of my list, as invariably when I taste chocolate made by various single origin chocolate bar makers, I often prefer the chocolate made from Madagascan cocoa beans. Even their milk chocolate is exceptionally good!
For those of you who do prefer milk chocolate, you are best to pair unflavoured milk chocolate with a lighter red like a Pinot Noir if it a dark milk chocolate (i.e. 40-50% cocoa), and a buttery Chardonnay if it’s a lighter milk chocolate of around 32-40% cocoa. Milk chocolate can also pair quite nicely with a chilled quality semi-sweet sparkling wine like Moscato. If the chocolate is flavoured with a strong flavour enhancer such as ginger, it is more important to match the wine to the ginger than to the type of chocolate.
Although white chocolate is not truly chocolate, as it contains only cocoa butter and sugar and no cocoa mass (also called cocoa liquer), many people do love the creaminess of white chocolate, and fine chocolatiers like Sugah! of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, make some delightful white chocolate bars that feature fruit and nuts. I would pair those with a fruity white such as Viognier or a sparkling Asti Spumante or Champagne. Champagne is also my choice to accompany chocolate dipped strawberries or a chocolate fondue.
I adore arranging chocolate and wine pairing events. Two of my favourite things coming together in perfect bliss. For information on some of the chocolate and wine pairing events I have arranged or am planning, please visit this page. I’d love to plan an event for you!
And to learn more about wine, try your hand at ordering something outside your usual comfort zone and let your taste buds guide you to your happy place. Stay tuned for more wine and chocolate pairing tips in volume II of Chocolatour.