7 ways to pair wine and chocolate

Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Cheese and wine matches are an old favourite for many wine buffs, but what you might not know is that chocolate can also be a perfect accompaniment.

Just like pairing cheese, there’s an art to it, and you shouldn’t eat just any old chocolate with any old wine.

Christine Ricketts is the cellar director and wine educator at Cellarmasters and has some delicious ways to pair wine and chocolate together for the perfect flavour explosion.

She says ‘The secret is to find a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate. If the chocolate is sweeter than the wine, it can actually make the wine taste bitter’.

For example, white chocolate is made mostly of cocoa fat and has a high sweetness level, so an acidic wine like a sparking white or a gewürztraminer balances it out. Dark chocolate is slightly bitter, so would suit a rich, deep, sweet cabernet sauvignon.

Here’s eight wine and chocolate pairings recommended by Ricketts.

Dark chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'Cabernet sauvignon has rich black currant and blackberry flavours, which add a lovely sweetness to dark chocolate’s bitterness. If you’re after a more complex taste, try it with Zinfandel, a light-bodied red wine with flavours of berries and black pepper. The fruity, spicy and smoky taste will paired with the chocolate give you a rich, bold taste sensation.'

Recommended wine: Krondorf The Growers Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Tasting notes: 'Warm and generous with savoury, grainy tannins supporting the ripe, spicy fruit. A long, lingering finish completes the enjoyment factor of this wine.'

White chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'White chocolate is not actually chocolate, but cocoa fat, so an acidic, sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling wine from Italy, or a gewürztraminer, an aromatic white wine, will cut through the fat and bring out the buttery and creamy flavours of the ‘chocolate’.'

Recommended wine: Mockingbird Hill Clare Valley Gewurztraminer 2016

Tasting notes: 'Gewurztraminer is a German word for spicy, which sums up the grape's taste. Bursting with lychees and turkish delight, these characters carry through onto the palate which is in the drier spectrum of Gewurztraminers. It has a lovely mouthfeel, coupled with refreshing acidity and fantastic length of flavour.'

Milk chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'Milk chocolate has high levels of cream and sugar, so a crisp riesling will contrast the sweet and milky taste. If you are a red wine drinker, a plush merlot will pair nicely as it’s soft, velvety and plum flavours will enhance the cacao of the chocolate.'

Recommended wine: Mclean's Farm Barossa Valley Merlot 2014

Tasting notes: 'A medium bodied, full flavoured Merlot with ripe spicy berry flavours balanced with mocha cedary oak, soft and smooth finish.'

Hazelnut or caramel chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'Sweet, red Tawny port has a wide array of subtle flavours, including hazelnut, dried fruits and caramel, which means it will enhance the nutty flavours of the chocolate. Caramel chocolates are the perfect harmony of sweet, salty, fat and bitter. Again, a Tawny port is will enhance the caramel, or pair with an Olorosso sherry which has a dark and nutty flavour that will bring out the chocolate flavor.'

Recommended wine: Dorrien Estate 'Old Contemptibles' Barossa Valley Tawny 500ml NV

Tasting notes: 'This Very Old Tawny from premium small batch winery is luscious and silky. Intense flavours of spicy caramel are lifted by the clean brandy spirit.'

Salted caramel

Photo: Cellarmasters

'A sparkling Shiraz is brilliant as it boasts a velvety palate, flavours of sweet fruits such as blackberries and blueberries, hints of chocolate and exotic spices – it has an overall sweetness that complements the saltiness and bitterness of the chocolate.'

Recommended wine: Mr. Riggs Battle Axe Sparkling Shiraz NV

Tasting notes: 'Aiming for style and profile, the wine offers luscious layers of spice and dark berry fruits, balanced with a peppery undercurrent. The wine style is lovely in nature, soft yet complex and chilling it brings out the natural sweetness from vintage fortified.'

Mint chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'The ultimate match for mint chocolate is a Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, as it will really highlight the mint flavour. Cab Savs that are from wine regions that are warm enough to have low pyrazine levels but are still generally cool tend to have a beautiful, mint aroma.'

Recommended wine: Gallows Wine Co. The Bommy Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Tasting notes: 'This single vineyard Margaret River Cabernet is made by leading vigneron Charlie Maiolo from his estate in the north of the region. Rich full bodied, balanced tannins & long elegant finish.'

Orange milk chocolate

Photo: Cellarmasters

'With flavours of green pepper and lime, a Grüner Veltliner – a dry, white wine will highlight the citrus flavours. If it’s a dark orange chocolate, a sweet, dark Liqueur Muscat will leave a beautiful finish.'

Recommended wine: Cape Campbell Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2016

Tasting notes:'Warmly textured with an attractive slipperiness. Showing lovely balance between fruit and acid line it is weighty and flavourful with a long, dry finish.'

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