Wines of Worth – Chocolate + Wine. Do Two Rights Make a Wrong?

WoW Choc+Wine


WINES OF WORTH – Chocolate & Wine – Do Two Rights Make a Wrong?

Easter is here, and there are probably chocolates of various shapes and colours passing your path this long weekend.

Chocolate and wine. Some swear by it, others swear off it. Most agree, chocolate and wine are two of life’s greatest pleasures. Alone, that is. They two have lots in common; both are made from fruit (chocolate is derived from cocoa nibs – the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree), both reflect the terroir of where they were grown (flavour and aroma compounds in both cacao pod and grape reflect their growing conditions, soil, climate, root stock and harvest), both are typically blends of beans or grapes, selected to complement the whole. And perhaps most telling – most have a vocabulary of dozens of words to describe flavour, texture, body and aroma.

The following are published reviews – two for chocolate and two for wine.  Can you tell which is which?  (see bottom of this article for answers)

1 – “Complex, with a floral aroma and herbal notes”

2 – “Bold chocolate flavour with subtle coffee notes in this smooth blend”

3 – “Smooth, rich and full, with caramel notes”

4 – “Alluring fig, mocha, boysenberry ganache and sweet spice”


The wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the chocolate you are serving it with. Pairing a wine that is drier (a.k.a less sweet) than the chocolate will make the wine veer towards sour and flat.

Like with Like. Match lighter, more elegant chocolates with lighter bodied wines.  Likewise, a stronger, robust chocolate would suit a full bodied wine.

But Don’t Go Overboard. Don’t go all matchy-matchy.  Chocolate and cocoa are often terms used to describe flavours in red wines – this does not mean that all red wines and chocolate are a pair made.

Let Out Your Inner Chef. Flavours you find in chocolate bars (caramel, nuts, raspberry) are often flavours found in wines.  Think about flavours, seek those bottles out and give them a go.

Get Feely. Chocolatiers use texture and weight to add complexity and body.  Wines with a rich textural heft and chewiness will be your best bet for these strong chocolates.

Break Away from the Norm. Contrary to popular belief, champagne and chocolate do not typically play well together. With the sweet chocolate, champagne comes across tart – even the demi-secs (sweeter styles) are too delicate to stand up to the coating cocoa butter mouthfeel. Save the champagne for strawberries.

Be Diplomatic. If you’re only buying one single wine to go with your chocolate tasting, choose a juicy red that is low in tannins (i.e. Zinfandel).

Follow the Pattern. If you are tasting numerous wines and chocolates (recommended), work from light chocolates to dark.  Start with a subtle plain white bar, and end with a rich bittersweet one.

Don’t Storm the Fort(ifieds). Fortified wines, with their higher liquor content, smoother body and bolder taste, are generally great partners with chocolate.  Just be sure you select the right wines for the right occasions – see the chart below for suggestions.  *Note – vintage ports, however, are too delicate to be enjoyed with the richness of chocolate.  Just enjoy them all on their own.

Open the Liqueur Cabinet. Liqueurs can be a fantastic match for stronger flavours, therefore they tend to favor dark chocolates. The softer, sweeter flavor of milk chocolate is overwhelmed by their intensity.

Be Bold, like Aussie Shiraz. Get out there and taste!  Sometimes atypical combinations work best.  Don’t be afraid to try unique wines, like Sparkling Shiraz and Oloroso Sherry.


Pairing Suggestions

Now that you have the basics, use this handy chart to create your own tasting party (go ahead – raid the Easter basket):


WHITE CHOCOLATENot a true chocolate because of the absence of chocolate liquor. Rich product made of cocoa butter, sugar & milk.  Flavour notes include cream, honey, vanilla, cream.CHAMPAGNE, GEWURZTRAMINER, MUSCATO D’ASTI, SWEETER RIESLINGSince there is no cocoa in white chocolate, the highly acidic champagne can work here. The other whites are low in acid and have an exotic sweetness that can complement the honey and vanilla flavours.



MILK CHOCOLATEHas a high percentage of sugar and smaller percentage of chocolate liquor. The addition of milk produces a milder, sweeter product.  Flavour notes include cocoa, vanilla, honey, cream, caramel, malt.


TOKAJI AZSU, MUSCATO D’ASTI, TAWNY PORTSweeter chocolates need a sweeter wine – tawny port is the strongest match here.
SEMISWEET CHOCOLATEDark chocolate with 50-69% cacao, with strong, complex flavours. As the name suggests, the aftertaste is balanced, not overly sweet.  Flavour notes include nuts, spice, earthy, caramel.BANYULS, BEAUJOLAIS, BORDEAUX, CABERNET SAUVIGNON, GRENACHE, MALBEC, MERLOT, MUSCAT, TAWNY PORT, RUBY PORT, SHIRAZ, ZINFANDEL, COGNAC, ARMAGNACFortified wines like banyuls and ruby port have cocoa and chocolate notes, as well as raspberry fruit – echoing the flavours in the chocolate. Beaujolais and muscat bring out chocolate’s fruity notes.  Cab Sauv highlights the peppery notes in the chocolate and tawny ports echo the caramel flavours.



BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATEThe most intense and rich dark chocolate is 70-100% cacao.  Flavour notes include bitter nuts, roasted, earthy, woody, nutty, ash, fruit. BANYULS, BEAUJOLAIS, BORDEAUX, CABERNET SAUVIGNON, GRENACHE, MALBEC, MERLOT, MUSCAT, TAWNY PORT, RUBY PORT, SHIRAZ, ZINFANDEL, COGNAC, ARMAGNAC, VIN JAUNEThe intensity of the chocolates necessitates a wine with equal intensity.  Stronger reds with concentrated fruit works well here.  The high percentage of cocoa butter decreases the tannic astringency and dryness of the wines.


CARAMEL OR TOFFEE TOKAJI AZSU, MEURSAULT, OLOROSO SHERRY, SAUTERNES, TAWNY PORTThese wines have buttery, caramel and stone fruit qualities, echoing those in the chocolate.


CHESTNUT, HAZELNUT, WALNUT, PRALINEDRY SHERRY, CABERNET SAUVIGON,TAWNY PORT, SAUTERNES  Sherry that is not too sweet is a good companion to almond-based chocolate— ideally a Pedro Ximinez with its almond aromas, or a well-rounded Fino. Cream Sherry matches well with hazelnuts.Lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Sauternes. Drambuie is also a nice liqueur choice.



CHILES, SPICERUBY PORT The fruity, fortified red wine will hold up to the heat.


CINNAMON & GINGER ZINFANDEL This spicy dry red can work – and if you can find a Late Harvest Zin, go for it.


COCONUT SAUTERNES/LATE HARVEST SEMILLON The soft tropical nuttiness of coconut is found in these wines.  


FRUIT Fruit-flavored truffles, chocolate cherries, chocolate-covered fruit, dipped glazed or fresh fruitBANYULS, CABERNET SAUVIGON, MADIERA, MERLOT, RUBY PORTWines with strong fruit character are good matches for fruit-accented chocolate. Try the Cab Sauv with dark chocolates, due to its higher tannins.  Merlot, a softer red than Cabernet, will work with fruity milk chocolate. Also try Grand Marnier as a liqueur choice with dried citrus peel chocolates.



 Framboise is a natural try with any raspberry creams. Try Marsala and Muscat with citrus centers.A fruity Pinot Noir echoes the fruitiness in some fine chocolates, and with its milder tannins, can also handle subtle cream fillings.


LIQUEURLIQUEURSLiqueur-flavored chocolates can pair well with their corresponding liqueurs.


MINT CABERNET SAUVIGON, ZINFANDELCabs and Zins are a great match for chocolate mint creams, mint thins, mint bars, and other variations of mint and chocolate—especially mint and dark chocolate. Some Aussie and California Cabs and Zins have pronounced minty nuances of their own – these are worth seeking out. Bailey’s Irish Cream is a natural liqueur choice.


COFFEE, ESPPRESSO  MADEIRA, RUBY PORTAlso try Kahlua and Godiva liqueurs.


*Wine/Chocolate Description Quiz Answers – #1, 2 are both published quotes describing chocolate and #3, 4 are published quotes describing wine.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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