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Chocolate & Wine, what's the big problem?

By debzbinden, Apr 3 2018 05:20PM

Chocolate? Good. Wine? Good.

So chocolate plus wine must be incredible, right?

For lots of wine-fans, enjoying a glass of wine alongside some yummy chocolate is an absolute no-brainer. Give it a quick Google though and it’s a different story. Most advice and information will mention some red flag combinations to be aware of, and for some wine drinkers it’s just a no-no to pair wine with chocolate.

So does this mean chocolate and wine are NOT the match made in heaven we thought? Here’s one of wine’s many “It depends…” answers. Blame it on the flavonoids and polyphenols. These are the antioxidants responsible for claims of health-giving qualities for both but also what can potentially cause the pleasurable taste sensation of either to be overwhelmed. Different kinds of proteins can get along really well or they can end up in a stand-off. Chuck in some fat from the milk, maybe a little bit of acidity from the wine and things aren’t necessarily always the smoothest.

Righto, so where’s the handy list of chocolate and wine pairing rules to avoid any accidental palate-assaults? While there are definitely some fairly well-accepted pointers for chocolate and wine fans, there’s lots of confusing, and even conflicting, advice out there so it’s worth delving a little bit deeper. Guidelines like matching levels of flavour intensity are helpful but some potential matches will have more of a subjective effect e.g. many people find drier styles of wine with higher acidity or tannins can be the trickiest ones to pair up.

OK so does that mean that only very sweet wines should be matched with chocolate? A brilliant rule of thumb in order to avoid wines seeming to be stripped of their fruitiness when drunk with desserts is to make sure the wine is at least as sweet as the dish. We like to lump chocolate in as a sweet treat but sometimes the overriding sensation for chocolate is the bitterness of the cocoa beans themselves. Milk and White chocolate are (usually) the options which demand sweetness in an accompanying wine but there’s a whole spectrum in between with other complications like fillings (salted caramel, fondants, truffles) or texture (added nuts or fruit etc) to keep things interesting.

And then so if the chocolate isn’t sweet the wine shouldn’t be either? Still not an absolute so definitely one to test out for yourself with a practical test.

Are dry, full-bodied reds and chocolate always a tricky match then?

Fortunately not. Your homework here is to dry a glass of juicy Argentine Malbec and see if those smooth mocha/chocolatey flavours don’t go down a treat with some dark chocolate. A little sweetness in a wine will help to off-set bitterness in dark chocolate and many New World reds will secretly be harbouring a few grams of residual sugar anyway…

Do you need to have special chocolate to enjoy with wine? Wine-friendly combinations are perfectly easy to do from within your usual weekly supermarket shop but if the thought of testing out pairings yourself feels like too much hard work (!) then experts such as Brix have made things really easy for you with specially created “chocolate for wine”, developed to keep all the trickier elements in check. Each of the four Brix variants includes a handy list of suggested wine pairings on the packaging so it’s a deliciously fool-proof way to avoid any unexpected clashes between two of your favourite things.

The best way to learn about Chocolate and Wine pairing though is to experiment for yourself and see what suits your palate. March’s #WedNightWineSchool in Epsom tested out some of these theories and ideas, you can read more about what worked best here.

Happy matchmaking!


Deb x

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