Chocolate is a wonderful match for red wine. Whether the wine is big and dry, light and fruity or even sweet, you can match chocolate to it for a wonderful tasting experience.
The Chocolate has to be right
OK, this is important. Don’t simply buy a candy bar at the store checkout, and definitely dump the idea of the heart-shaped box of assorted filled chocolates. You need to locate some nice, hand-made chocolates for the best results.
First a quick lesson. Chocolate comes from the Cacao bean. These beans are fermented, roasted and pressed releasing Cocao solids (sometimes just referred to as Cocao) and Cocao butter. The latter is what makes chocolate creamy. The former lends the flavor characteristics and coloring. The higher the percentage of pure solids the most extracted flavor you get. Cocao solids also contain a high amount of antioxidants, making them somewhat healthy.
Dark chocolate contains the most solids and is less sweet and even slightly bitter. Milk chocolate on the other hand is made with a higher percentage of Cocao butter along with milk solids, making it lighter and creamier. Finally, white chocolate contains Cocao butter but none of the solids. As such white chocolate isn’t considered a true chocolate per se.
The different types of chocolates available will give you different taste sensations when paired with wine. I suggest an assortment of fine dark chocolates and even some milk chocolates. Some people recommend white chocolate as well, but the lack of flavor intensity may make pairing difficult.
Gourmet chocolates aren’t cheap, but the quality is so much higher than typical store bought. If you want to save money or cannot find a good chocolatier then look for bars of dark chocolate with a high Cacao percentage. This is often advertised right on the label. For example, Hersey makes one called “Extra Dark” and has 60% Cacao. Just remove the wrapper and break it up for better aesthetics. There is also often better quality European milk chocolate available in grocery stores away from the candy stand at the checkout.
Quality of Wine Should Match Quality of Chocolate
Once you’ve chosen your chocolate, make sure you pick a good quality wine that will deliver the experience you are looking for. Ask your local wine merchant for a Zinfandel or Cabernet to pair with your dark chocolate. An intensely complex wine with lots of cherry, cassis and spice will work well. A $5 one dimensional, fruity cabernet may not give you the same experience.
Milk chocolate with it’s creamier texture and lighter flavor pairs well with a lighter, fruitier wine like Pinot Noir. Some very inexpensive Pinto Noirs, while enjoyable on their own, simply lack the complexity you are looking for in this case. Something with layers of fruit, a little spice and balanced acidity will be perfect.
If you really have a sweet tooth try a Tawny Port as well. The big, robust flavors and sweetness will match the flavorful, slightly bitter aspects of the dark chocolate well.
Always start your tasting with the lighter wines and chocolate and move to the heavier, bolder ones. Then have some fun mixing up the combinations and see what tickles your fancy.
The best part about wine and chocolate tasting is that it is perfect for an evening with your loved one or even a large group of friends.