Pairing Wines and Chocolates

    Box of chocolatesBy Tom Davis
    Tom Davis teaches the UD minicourse "Wines of the World" and is a retired professor from UD’s School of Business.

    While it may be common to learn about the proper wines to pair with various cheeses, it is less common to learn how to pair wines with chocolates. If you’re sharing a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, consider sharing some wines too.

    There is a wide range in chocolates: white, milk, semi-sweet, dark and ultra-dark. As the chocolate ranges from white to ultra-dark, the sugar content goes from quite high to very low. The cocoa content moves in opposite fashion- from none in white chocolate to quite high in ultra-dark chocolate. Chocolates may also have added flavors of fruits, nuts, spices and even salts or peppers.

    The wines we might drink have a similar range: light white, richer white, rose, light red, medium red and big red. The differences come through type of grape, sweetness, acidity, alcohol, balance and tannin.

    Any choosing of a wine for a given chocolate is going to be an experiment – a guess. You can try wines from the wine range that are comparable to the chocolate range. Wine and chocolate both range from light to dark, and can be paired together based on desired sweetness. My favorite pair is rich dark chocolate and a big red wine.

    Stacy Slinkard offers suggestions for pairing wines and chocolates in her article Pairing Wine and Chocolate. The following wines caught my eye because of their sweetness, and complex flavors:

    • Brachetto d’Acqui, a medium sweet sparkling red wine from the northwest of Italy.
    • Banyuls, a slightly sweet red wine made from the Grenache grape in the south of France.
    • Port, a sweet fortified red wine made all over the world, but notably from the Douro Valley of Portugal.

    If you are looking for a wine to pair with milk chocolate, choose a dessert wine, such as riesling, or even a sparkling Champagne (great for chocolate dipped strawberries). Dark chocolate calls for a wine with a full body, robust aroma and intense flavors. I suggest cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir or merlot.

    There are few rules when it comes to enjoying great wine and something sweet. Take a guess, share with friends, drink responsibly and, above all, have some fun. Adventurous choices are encouraged. Enjoy!