Italian wine and chocolate. On their own, they’re two of the best things in the world. We bet that you’re thinking about both of them right now after just hearing the mere mention of the words.
The creamy smoothness of milk chocolate, the interesting textures of dark chocolate, and the lightness of white chocolate all have their own special joys to offer. We’re sure you also have preferences when it comes to who makes your favoured brand of chocolate.
The same goes for your choice of Italian wine. In fact, there’s even more variety in this area. Everything from the type of wine to the vintage and the land the grapes were grown on play a part in your enjoyment of a glass wine.
So, they’re great on their own.
Now think about how amazing they are when they combine forces.
The right combination of chocolate and wine can lead to a taste experience that is quite unlike anything else that you might experience. The different tastes and textures mingle to create something that is truly remarkable.
However, the wrong combination doesn’t work out quite as well. It’s all about finding the right balance with flavours. A rich chocolate, for example, has the potential to completely overpower a glass of white wine.
As always, personal taste plays a part. But we’re here to offer some general advice to the chocolate and wine newbies among you.
The General Rules
Before we get started, let’s look at some general rules for pairing wine with chocolate. This is for those of you who want to experiment a little bit on your own, as well as taking heed of the recommendations that we’re about to offer.
Usually, you’ll have a safe combination if you pair your chocolate with a wine that’s slightly sweeter than the chocolate. This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re pairing your wines with desserts too. The sweeter the chocolate, the more likely it is to overpower dry and unsweet wines. You’ll end up with the chocolate taste dominating your mouth, making the wine almost pointless.
This changes when you’re choosing a wine to go with dark chocolate. Such chocolates are generally low on the sweetness scale, but they have a lot of interesting taste textures to make up for it. They’re bold and complex, which means you should match them up with similarly bold wines. Anything that’s high in tannins will go well with a dark chocolate. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all reds go well with dark chocolate either. It’s those all-important tannins that often play the largest role.
Some Recommended Pairings
Now that we’ve looked at the general rules, it’s time for some more specific pairings. All of these combinations go well together, so use them as the basis for your own experimentation too. After all, a similar wine to any that we mention will likely go just as well with the chocolate in question. You may even discover some new taste combinations that we’ve missed.
Okay, so let’s get some technicalities out of the way. Many people may rankle against the inclusion of white chocolate on this list. They’ll say that the fact that it only contains cocoa fat, rather than true cocoa, means that it’s not a chocolate at all.
However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. White chocolate, while still sweet, doesn’t have the richness of other types of chocolate. As a result, it’s one of the most versatile chocolates around for pairing with wines.
We recommend a nice dessert wine, with most types of Port doing the job well. A regular Port tastes great, but a Rosé Port also offers its own interesting flavours. We also recommend ice wine, if you can get your hands on it, and Muscat.
White chocolate also goes well with some sparkling white wines, such as Moscato d’ Asti. However, perhaps most surprisingly, it has a good red pairing in the form of Lambrusco. Again, the sparkling nature of the wine seems to help here.
When people think about chocolate, it’s likely the milk variety that comes to mind. This is among the richest of the different types of chocolate, which means that you need to be even more careful with your wine choices.
The use of milk adds to that rich texture, and lends milk chocolate a greater sweetness and richness than dark chocolate. While this limits your pairings when compared to white chocolate, milk chocolate is still easier to pair than dark chocolate.
Again, regular Port and Muscat make for excellent combinations. However, we recommend allowing the Port to age a touch longer than you might need it to for white chocolate. Rasteau is also a great choice, as is a nice, creamy Sherry.
The most complex of the chocolates is also one of the most difficult to pair with wine. All of those elegant textures and flavours may be amazing, but they can also overpower wines that can’t match them in terms of their own strength.
There’s a bitterness to dark chocolate that immediately knocks any sweet wines out of the running. The use of cocoa solids makes dark chocolate a dominating experience for your taste buds, so you almost have to find a wine that can do battle with it from supremacy in your mouth.
So, what do we recommend?
A Chianti is always a good choice, as it has enough power to match the dark chocolate step for step. Port direct from Portugal also goes surprisingly well. But for a great matchup, why not try Chinato. Hailing from Piedmont, this aromatised wine has the slightest hint of cherries, coupled with a spiciness that more than makes it a match for the bitterness of dark chocolate.
The Final Word
Those are our recommended chocolate and wine pairings. Are there any that you feel we’ve missed out, or any unexpected pairings that you think we should try. Let us and your fellow readers know in the comments section below.