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Wine and Chocolate pairing used to be more straightforward. However, there is almost as much selection in chocolate as there is in wine these days, so it takes a bit more thought to find the right combinations.
Most chocolates can pair with more than one wine, but there are cases though where the style of the chocolate lends to a certain style of wine due to a complimentary property. For example, chocolate that is infused with coffee is generally best paired with wine that also showcases coffee on the aromatics like Cabernet Franc. There are cases where sweeter chocolates will pair better with tannic wines, as the sweetness can help balance the drying nature of the tannins on the palate.
The following are suggestions on wine and chocolate pairings. I encourage you to use this as a starting guide to your wine and chocolate exploration and experiment with other combinations too.
This is the classic dark chocolate bar. It has a bitter component but still trends towards the sweetness with a delicate finish. These characters make it perfect chocolate for high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa or Sonoma as the deep rich flavors of the bar blend nicely on the palate with the dark fruits from the wine.
This chocolate bar poses a challenge as it is very dark and has an American oak character to it. Luckily there is just a wine that is a perfect pairing that also spends some time in oak – Late Bottle Vintage Port. The deep, intense character of the bar goes will with the baking spice, leather, and dark red fruits in the Port. Additionally, the Port has a good amount of residual sugar to balance the slight bitterness in the chocolate.
For milk chocolate and toffee, Merlot tends to be the best pairing. Often Merlot has aromas of milk chocolate, and it tends to be richer and rounder than other Bordeaux varieties so it can elevate this type of chocolate. Merlots from Washington are especially good pairings as they have more tannins than California wines and, therefore, can enhance the finish on the chocolate.
For many fans of chocolate and wine, coffee is also a drink they enjoy. To enhance the coffee, chocolate, and wine trifecta, adding a wine made with Cabernet Franc is ideal. Cabernet Franc usually has a variant of coffee aromas on the nose and tends to be aromatic like chocolate with coffee. Several domestic Sonoma Cabernet Francs can be a successful pairing with coffee flavor chocolate that is lower in Cacao. The Goodio trends towards the darker side, so it is best to find an old-world Cabernet Franc such as Chinon or a Bordeaux anchored with Cabernet Franc.
Introducing another variable such as fruit can be interesting for chocolate, but also pose challenges for wine pairings. For this bar, a fruity wine companion is the answer to this compelling chocolate. A Sonoma County Zinfandel or Sierra Foothills Barbera would be my choice as both of these wines are forward in fruit aromas, but tend to not have significant tannins. The acid in the Barbera specifically lifts the chocolate on the palet and enhances the blueberry.
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