Perhaps it’s the end of a long week and you’re ready to relax. Maybe you’re getting together with friends, and you want to treat yourself. Or maybe you’re planning a romantic night in with your partner, and you’re planning to indulge. Whatever the case may be, red wine with chocolate is on the menu—it’s a classic pairing.
What wine goes with chocolate?
The key to a good red wine and chocolate pairing is to identify the flavor profile of the wine you want to enhance. Once you know that, you can choose what kind of wine goes with chocolate.
One tip—find a wine that’s sweeter than the chocolate with which you’re pairing it. Otherwise, the wine will taste bitter. Another tip—pair like with like. Match a fruity wine with fruity chocolate, a nutty wine with nutty chocolate, and so forth.
Dark chocolates that contain a higher percentage of cacao (at least 70 to 100 percent) have a rich, intense flavor profile with a combination of fruity, nutty, roasted, earthy, woody or ashy notes. Dark chocolate and red wine pairings work well when you use a more full-bodied wine with fruity notes. Red wine and dark chocolate that pair well include the following:
- Port: The cinnamon in port’s flavor profile is enhanced by chocolate with high cacao percentages.
- Merlot: This wine brings out the fruity and peppery notes in chocolate.
- Zinfandel: This intense wine pairs well with cayenne chocolate and brings out its spiciness.
- Chianti: This wine’s rich, sweet cherry and cinnamon flavors pair well with chocolate.
- Malbec: This port-style red wine matches well with ginger chocolate.
- Petite Sirah: Another port-style red wine, it goes well with coffee chocolate.
- Chinato: This wine contains subtle notes of cherry and exotic spices that pair well with dark chocolate.
Other red wines that pair well with dark chocolate include Shiraz, Pinot noir, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Milk chocolate includes flavors of cocoa, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, caramel and nuts. For the best pairing, choose a lighter, fruitier, lower-alcohol content red like one of the following:
- Pinot noir, Shiraz and Petite Sirah: These late-harvest red wines pair well with milk chocolate.
- Merlot: This medium-bodied wine goes well with smooth milk chocolate.
- Australian Muscat: This wine is known as possibly the sweetest of the sweet wines in the world and pairs well with creamy milk chocolate.
- Tokay: The butterscotch, nutty and toffee flavors of the Tokay bring out milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall flavor.
- Acqui: This sweet, sparkling red wine pairs well with chocolate mousse.
- Ruby Port: With flavors of spices and berries, this fortified wine pairs well with milk chocolate.
White chocolate contains no cacao solids and instead is made only of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. It has a sweet, buttery flavor with notes of honey and cream. White chocolate pairs well with light, fruity wines. For a white chocolate and wine combination, consider the following:
- Moscato: The light, aromatic, fruity flavors of this sparkling wine bring out the creaminess of white chocolate.
- Pinot noir: The sweet flavors of red cherries, strawberries and raspberries in the Pinot noir pair well with the fat in white chocolate’s cocoa butter.
- Beaujolais: This light-bodied red wine has a range of flavors, from the red fruit and flower flavors of the Saint-Amour to the black currant and blueberry flavors of the Morgon.
- Ice Wine: Riesling and Vidal Blanc ice wines contain notes of lemon, pineapple and orange that go well with white chocolate’s smoothness.
- Rosé: This wine contains the flavors of strawberries and currants and matches well with white chocolate.
While sparkling wines go well with white chocolate, you’ll want to avoid them when eating dark or milk chocolate—the acid in the sparkling wine creates a tart, unappealing flavor when combined with cacao.
Both red wine and chocolate come from plants— red wine from grapes and chocolate from the cacao bean, which grows on the Theobroma (or cacao) tree. Both contain polyphenols that contribute to health benefits. The polyphenols in wine are found in the skin of the grapes, and the polyphenols in chocolate come from the cacao bean.
One type of polyphenol—tannins—are found in dark chocolate and red wine and add dryness, bitterness and astringency. Basically, tannins are what cause you to pucker up when you take a drink of wine. A good dark chocolate wine pairing can be the most difficult to create because a red wine high in tannins combined with bitter dark chocolate can overwhelm your palate.
When consumed in moderation, both red wine and chocolate have been proven to improve heart health, even for people who have a history of cardiovascular disease. The antioxidants in dark chocolate and red wine help with the removal of accumulated toxins from the body and also decrease cell damage and infections. For the most benefit, women can have one 5-ounce glass a day while men can enjoy two.
So how do you figure out what wine goes good with chocolate? Just keep exploring until you find the pairing you like.
At Cococlectic, we feature a different American small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker each month. These chocolate makers are passionate about their products and create their chocolate bars from scratch using only three main ingredients: cacao beans, sugar and cocoa butter.
Our featured chocolates are vegan, non-GMO, fair-trade and ethically sourced. They do not contain any soy, gluten, dairy or nut, but they may be produced in a facility that handles these ingredients.
Sign up for a chocolate-of-the-month subscription club and join us for a free virtual chocolate tasting with our featured chocolate maker of the month. We also offer chocolate and wine corporate tasting classes. Email us for more information.