Although we have no idea why, there seems to be a general perception that chocolate and wine go well together. Pairing food and wine is almost a science, but what about chocolate? Let’s consider for a moment whether it’s just a concept somebody invented to increase sales on Valentine’s Day, or if it is something worth exploring.
Chocolate and Wine Are Miles Apart
First of all the unlikely pair come from completely different geographical locations. Most of the cacao trees in the world are grown in hot and humid places like South America, West Africa and Asia – not really ideal areas for wine production. Although wine is also produced in South America, the best known wine countries are Chile and Argentina – not Ecuador and Brazil, where cacao is grown.
This does not necessarily mean that the two don’t match. Anybody who has had chocolate covered cherries or has dipped strawberries into a chocolate fondue fountain will tell you that fruit and chocolate can go very well together indeed.
Tasty Pairing Tips
Just because a chocolate cherry is decadently delicious, doesn’t mean you can put any old chocolate with any old wine. Here are a few tips on pairing chocolate with wine:
1. Dry red wine and dark chocolate can be a bad idea
We recently wrote about tannins in red wine and how it creates a bitter taste. Chocolate also has tannins, especially in dark chocolate. Watch out for pairing a tannin-rich wine with a tannin-rich chocolate.
2. Keep it fruity
Cacao beans are naturally fruity and are nicely accentuated by a fruity wine with a lower pH. However, this doesn’t apply to all chocolate variations.
3. Be aware of too much fruitiness with intense chocolate
If your chocolate is 80% plus, chances are that a sweet fruity wine will simply not be strong enough to withstand the intensity of the chocolate. Instead, go for a fortified wine, like a Port.
4. Chocolate and wine is sometimes like sumo wrestling
Although the last three tips advised not to pair intensely flavoured chocolate with intensely flavoured wine, this does work sometimes. Like two heavy sumo wrestlers, a heavy and rich red like Zinfandel or Syrah would certainly be a good match for a luscious dark Belgian chocolate. It is all about the quality of both wine and chocolate when it comes to pairing bolder flavours.
5. Don’t limit your chocolate to dessert
Use cacao powder as part of a spice rub for steak or use a rich dark chocolate in your favourite chilli con carne and serve a spicy Shiraz for a delectable taste experience.
6. Still not sure? Go to Portugal
If all else fails use a Port or Madeira wine from Portugal, which is known for its food and wine. The sweetness of these fortified wines boldly stands up to the sweetness in chocolate, and their fresh acidity brings balance. You can’t go wrong with Portuguese wines!