Wine & Chocolate: A Perfectly Complex Pair

It’s Valentine’s Day season, aka wine and chocolate season, aka You Forgot About Valentine’s Day and Are Running Out To Grab Whatever Is At The Corner Store Season, but a Charlotte sommelier wants to remind you that you can’t just grab a two dollar bottle of wine and standard heart shape box and call it a Valentine.

In this recent article from the Charlotte Observer, Wine Operations Director of Foxcroft Wine Co., Shawn Paul waxes poetic about the “perfect chemistry” of wine and chocolate. The combination of chocolate and wine is a classic, but have you ever actually thought about what makes it so special? As Paul puts it, “It’s a uniquely human experience to eat chocolate and have it coat your mouth with this rich quality that unfolds over time. Likewise, the best wines also unfold over time.” Which is why he’s so passionate about finding the right pairing to elevate that journey and experience.

Just like with different foods, certain chocolates work better with certain kinds of wine. First and foremost, Paul wants you to consider the sweetness level of both the wine and the chocolate. “Some wines are bone dry and some are quite sweet,” a perfect chocolate pairing complements that profile. According to Paul and, well, chemistry, the wine should be sweeter than the chocolate. A dry red or standard table red isn’t going to do you any favors during the dessert course because the sweetness of chocolate is just going to highlight the dryness of the wine. 

The Charlotte Observer article delivers a few specific wine and chocolate pairing recommendations from a few different sommeliers, but in general they recommend the following:

  • a milk chocolate pairs nicely with a port
  • a semi-sweet with a pinot noir
  • a dark chocolate with a cabernet
  • Match the intensity of the wine to the chocolate
  • Pair ingredients in the chocolate with flavors in the wine
  • And, if you are doing a flight or a tasting, take the flight from light to dark

And, if the idea of Valentine’s Day and a gift of chocolate and wine sounds like a load of Hallmark holiday hooey to you, consider that cocoa beans and wine grapes are both fermented, so you can enjoy this classic pairing whenever you want.