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.

pairing-wine-with-chocolate

Truth be told, pairing wine with chocolate can be a real treat for your taste buds. A dark red wine like Malbec and a dark (slightly) acidic chocolate like this Izumo Shimane Fig Bar from La Chocolaterie Nanairo are a match made in (Chocolatour) heaven.

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!

flavoured-chocolate

When attempting to pair flavoured chocolate with wine, it’s more important to consider the flavour enhancement (such as ginger, cinnamon, etc.) than whether the chocolate is dark, white, or milk.

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.

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

36 Responses

  1. Heather
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen, Thanks for including some white wines in your list. The tannin in red wine gives me migraines, so it’s white wine only for me. I like your champagne suggestions! 🙂

  2. Suzanne Boles
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m in the same boat as Heather but I do prefer white wines in general. Thanks for your ongoing updates and valuable information.

  3. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh Doreen, I think this is my favorite of your posts! (At the moment, anyway.) I love pairing red wine and dark chocolate. But you have raised some other interesting alternatives that I would not have considered, but they sound delightful.
    Linda recently posted…Part I; I am the Queen of England!My Profile

  4. I love this, I could build an evening with friends around wine and chocolate, what fun! It’s funny, when I thunk of chocolate and wine pairings, white wine never even crossed my mind.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Leading from Behind, Shepherd or Sheep?My Profile

    • Hi Debra. Great to hear from you!

      Yes, chocolate goes with just about everything if you do the pairing properly.

      And yes, a chocolate and wine pairing event is a super way to spend an evening with friends or colleagues. If we could arrange an event around my chocolate book, I’d love to come and also do a wine and chocolate pairing event in your area! 🙂

  5. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wine and chocolate? I cannot say that I have ever tried this combination but it sounds tasty.

    I do have a fondness for dark chocolate – Green and Black to be exact!

    • Hi Phoenicia. Yes, Green & Black is good. But I urge you to seek out some of the amazing chocolate that is being produced by the many talented chocolatiers in London who put G&B to shame. Search my site for chocolatiers in London and you will get quite a listing.

  6. Ken Dowell
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m sure a trip to Madagascar would be fascinating. I don’t know too much about it and never thought of the country as a source of chocolate.

    • Hi Ken and thanks for your comment. You’d be surprised at all the countries that are now growing cacao! That’s why my Chocolatour project has turned into a multi-volume series. There is much more chocolate in the world than I never dreamed of!

  7. Very interesting Doreen. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I have never had Malbec wine, in fact I don’t recall ever even seeing it at our local stores. But I am definitely going to keep my eyes open for it in the future.

  8. Sabrina Quairoli
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is wonderful, Doreen. Very informative. I’m not a big wine drinker, I have stomach issues whenever I drink any type (white or red). Though, I can handle champagne. I personally like champagne with chocolate, especially chocolate covered strawberries, yum. I didn’t know that you should pair chocolate with wine depending on what is in it. That makes sense. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  9. lenie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Doreen, I’ll bet you had a great time pairing the chocolate and wine – would have loved to have shared some of that time with you. I like Pinot Noir so now I will have to try it with milk chocolate.
    I’ll look forward to reading about your find in Madagascar once you’ve been there.

  10. FUN! This was a treat (get it? ha) to share with my Facebook friends. I have many wine and chocolate lovers. Deep red wine and dark, dark chocolate–oh, that’s one of my favorite desserts!
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Hawaiian Hiking – Part 2 – Hawaii “The Big Island”My Profile

  11. Kathy Andrew
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for this latest diversion Doreen. Really great to have your recommendations:-)
    Kathy Andrew recently posted…Time for a Change Can be a New OpportunityMy Profile

  12. Beth Niebuhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    Fun article to read as my day is starting! I’d never thought to pair chocolate with white wine, even if it’s white chocolate. I do like your suggestion to “try your hand at ordering something outside your usual comfort zone and let your taste buds guide you to your happy place.”

    • Thx for your comment, Beth. I am a firm believer that the individual is the best one to decide what they like and don’t like. which is why I don’t write straight chocolate reviews on my site. I pique the interest by telling readers about something and why I may have liked it, and then let them decide for themselves whether it’s good or bad. Cheers!

  13. Susan cooper
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen, reminds me of when we did that chocolate and wine tasting awhile back. That was fun. :). Chocolate and wine is an amazing combination that creates a unique treat for chocolate lovers like us. Two of my favorite things together, what a magical experience!

  14. Catarina says:

    Sounds like delicious suggestions, Doreen. You actually make me crave, above all, chocolate. Would be a good idea to serve when you get together with friends in a casual way.
    Catarina recently posted…Do you like Harvard’s new approach to leadership?My Profile

  15. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    I still remember when you suggested a couple of years ago that I pair Malbec with sea salt dark chocolate. It’s now a weekly ritual 😉
    Jeri recently posted…#Publishing: Romance Books by the NumbersMy Profile

  16. Joe Ankenbauer
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love Malbec with dark Chocolate as well, but I’ve yet to try Chardonnay with milk chocolate. It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the tip!
    Joe Ankenbauer recently posted…A Hidden Paradise: Thousand Steps BeachMy Profile

    • Hi Joe, and thanks for your comment. Yes, I wouldn’t have thought of pairing a buttery Chardonnay with milk chocolate. But that pairing came straight from the chocolatier in this case, and it turned out to be a winner. But remember, it has to be a heavy Chardonnay with that creamy texture, as opposed to an unoaked Chardonnay. Cheers!

  17. Rose
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love pairing wine with chocolates. Very delicious possibilities. Very useful and good combinations. Thank you.

  18. Jonathan says:

    This chocolate looks beautiful and interesting, I can’t wait to try it. Which sweet red wine do you suggest?

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