Pairing Wine and Chocolate

In time for Valentine's Day


Wine and chocolate is a mysterious pairing that seems to have starkly different results for different palates. Which, of course, is fine since the only match that is good is the one that works for you. But it does make offering pairing recommendations a bit more difficult than it ought to be!

There is one standby that works wonders with most chocolate: the sweet red wine Banyuls from Southern France. Based on the Grenache grape, Banyuls seems to have the elusive balance of fruit, sugar, acidity and tannin that makes it chocolate’s perfect partner. Similar to Banyuls is Port -- in particular, the fruity style of port referred to as Ruby Port, which accounts for most of the branded port wines that the Port houses offer at very agreeable pricing.

So, what is it about chocolate that makes it so hard to pair?
What Wine Goes With This Chocolate?

Click to see a slideshow: What Wine Goes with This Chocolate?

Well, for starters there’s all that sugar and sugar generally requires sugar to achieve a balanced food and wine pairing. In addition, sugar can highlight the acid of a particularly high-acid wine, while at the same time it can make a low-acid wine seem remarkably dull and flat.

Another problem that we encounter with pairing wine and chocolate is that the texture of the chocolate can have a profound effect on how the wine works with each style. In most people’s minds there is some sort of continuum that stretches from white chocolate (not chocolate), to milk chocolate, medium bittersweet, and right through the almost bitter high cocoa examples.

The truth is when you break down the chocolate taste profile you end up with something that looks more like a bowtie than a straight line. On one end are the super-rich, creamy and sweet examples, such as your typical milk chocolate. On the other end are the bittersweet chocolates with high cocoa content. Both of these extremes represent the most intense versions of chocolate. On one end for its richness and sweetness, and on the other end for its intensity and bitterness.

In between, one finds chocolates that tend to be less rich and less sweet. One of the keys to pairing food and wines is trying to align the intensities of both. In this case we have both texture and the balance of sweet and bitter to deal with, so you can see how this might end up being a difficult pairing to work with. That’s why going with Banyuls or a similar wine is such an easy fall back.

Banyuls is well suited to chocolate because of its fruity character, obvious but balanced sweetness, slight tannic edge and overall rich mouthfeel -- four elements that have to be taken into account to make the match work. If you’re not into Banyuls, other wines can work with chocolates, but each type of chocolate might require a more specific recommendation.

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  • Dear Gregory,
    I've tried in one of our wine meeting at SBAV-AM dinner ( a kind of association, which in a free translation should be Brazilian Association of Wine Lovers. This is in the Amazon,specifically in the city of Manaus) a greek wine called Mavrodaphne of Patras, and is was quite interesting the pairing with a chocolate dessert. Have you ever heard or tried it?

    Helio Uchoa

    Feb 10, 2011 at 4:51 PM

  • I have paired chocolate with Argentina Melbec and I find it works well.

    Banyuls - DOMAINE DE BLANES MAURY 2006
    AC is available in Ontario Canada. I read the tasting notes and they do recommend chocolate as an accompaniment to the Banyuls.
    I think I might try this.
    Thank you.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 7:53 PM

  • Snooth User: john704
    176725 2

    Back in the "eighties", wine & food critics said wine did not pair with chocolate, but my experience then was dark chocolate cake with either red wine or port wasn't too bad. It wasn't that good either. However, now when I am asked to pair chocolate with port, for example, I discourage it, suggesting instead that each be treated as a separate dessert mostly because one will always be sweeter than the other and, as a consequence, the less sweet will always be the more bitter of the two. Cheese with the port, coffee with the chocolate.

    Feb 11, 2011 at 4:05 AM

  • Only dark chocolate - the 70% cacao type - really is suitable.
    Great call for BANYULS and MAURY. Both have a sliightly burnt taste and rich but never cloying sweetness that sets off dark chocolate.
    Where they come from the red Banyuls are also served before all types of meals, chilled from the fridge, as delicious aperitifs.

    Feb 11, 2011 at 5:01 AM

  • A new Port Vintage is the perfect pairing with chocolate, try it...

    Jorge Miranda

    Feb 11, 2011 at 5:37 AM

  • Snooth User: Dollarbil
    574668 4

    I agree, Port goes great with chocolate

    Feb 11, 2011 at 6:00 AM

  • Snooth User: Dollarbil
    574668 4


    Feb 11, 2011 at 6:04 AM

  • Snooth User: rvegasr
    709523 1

    Malbec works for me everytime. I try not to follow the so called rules of drink this with that and eat this with that. It's all about what tastes and feels good to me.

    Feb 11, 2011 at 10:45 AM

  • Snooth User: slug0
    762524 8

    Best wine-chocolate pairing we've had was at an early-in-the-day tasting at the Pedroncelli Winery, Dry Creek Canyon, CA. As we were the only tasters, the pourer let us taste their 2002 vintage Four Grape Port with dark chocolate covered espresso beans. What a way to start our tasting day!!

    Feb 11, 2011 at 1:01 PM

  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    I totally agree with Gregory and William - Banyuls or Maury with a 70 % chocolate is a very happy marriage. These Roussillon wines seem to have a slightly bitter edge, more tannins and a little less sugar than the average Ruby Port, which makes them go better with chocolate - or blue cheese, or as an aperitif. A dark chocolate with raspberry flavor can be sublime with a Banyuls.

    Feb 11, 2011 at 1:44 PM

  • Snooth User: jazscott
    190193 19

    What are people's thoughts about Recioto and Chocolate, or an amarone with chocolate?

    Feb 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM

  • Snooth User: mirco19
    771642 1

    i tried with porto LBV and sherry pedro ximenes...GOOD like me.. my friends said me that is a good match also with SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO passito..but no with choccolate dark up 70% cacao..

    Feb 15, 2011 at 1:21 PM

  • well

    Aug 30, 2013 at 2:53 AM

  • good one

    Aug 31, 2013 at 5:00 AM

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