Devil's Corner

Chocolate and Wine Pairings

Valentine's Day is coming up, and what better way to celebrate than with your favorite Chilean wines paired with chocolate? Score brownie points with your special someone by using these do's and don'ts for your chocolate and red wine pairing ideas.

Pairing Red Wine and Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolates pair best with red wines because they are able to match the flavor and intensity of the wine without overwhelming your senses. To make the pairing as complementary as possible, you'll need to closely match the wine tannins (which are responsible for the woody or oaky flavor of the wine) with the chocolate's bitterness. Chocolate is considered dark when its cocoa content is from 50-90 percent; the higher the number, the more bitter the bar and the more tannic of a wine you should select.

To illustrate with an example, think of a 70 percent chocolate with earthy cocoa notes. A light red, such as a Pinot Noir, would not be assertive enough to match the chocolate's intensity. But a bolder Chilean wine, like our Malbec would make a perfect pairing.

Once you've considered the bitterness of the chocolate, think about any additional flavor characteristics the chocolate might have. Flavors can come from a filling (like truffles), an inclusion (like a chocolate bark filled with berries and nuts), or the cocoa's natural flavor (just like wine, it has terroir). Say you've found a dark chocolate truffle with a strawberry cream center. A complementary wine pairing would not only match the dark chocolate's bitterness, but it would also contain a similar fruity quality. Again, Malbec could work well because it has dark berry tones. A jammy Cabernet Sauvignon is another possibility, as it would highlight the jammy quality of the strawberry cream center.

For a dark chocolate with a nutty or intensely cocoa flavor, Carmenere would be a great match. It's slightly lighter in body, but tastes of chocolate, coffee, and spice.

Pairing Wine and Semisweet Chocolate

Like its name suggests, semisweet chocolate is somewhat sweet. This type of chocolate can be anything from 35 percent to 65 percent in cocoa content. Try the chocolate on its own to know where on the sweet-to-bitter spectrum the chocolate falls, then select the right wine pairing.

Since Pinot Noir tends to be lighter in body than other reds, it often works well with semisweet chocolates, particularly if the chocolate has fruity characteristics like those typically expressed in a Pinot Noir.

While Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with darker chocolates, it's also something to consider when you have a semisweet or milk chocolate that features salty or savory add-ins. Whenever chocolate contains nuts, potato chips, or even bacon, the salty nature of the add-in calls for a fuller-bodied wine to match the rich, salty flavor. In this case, skip over light-bodied reds in favor of a full-bodied wine with intense flavors. For this reason, we often recommend Malbec for semisweet chocolates that have rich, fatty, or salty flavors.

Chocolate and White Wine Pairings

Chocolate can match well with wine or even rosé, but only when the cocoa percentage is very light. For this reason, you'll often see white chocolate presented alongside a rosé or white wine. Since white chocolates tend to be quite sweet, white wines that are balanced (on the semi-dry side as opposed to sweet white wine) lend a nice acidity to the pairing.

Here as well, let the flavors of the chocolate guide you toward the right food and wine pairing. White and milk chocolates that have a citrus flavor work well with Sauvignon Blanc, which has a citrus flavor. If your chocolate tastes like champagne, rose, strawberry, or other lighter fruits typically found in a rosé wine, the pairing could succeed.

The best chocolate and wine pairings are what tastes great to you. Once you understand what to think about when matching chocolate and wine, you can mix and match pairings for a unique date night idea.

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