Fri 18 Oct 2013

Matching Chocolate With Wine


When trying out food and wine matches at home, remember that help is at hand in the form of The Society’s interactive Food & Wine Matcher.

Chocolate and wine: when asked, most will say they are mutually exclusive, and that to try and pair the two is a fool’s errand. However, never daunted, an intrepid band of Society members came together on a balmy Saturday morning to get to grips with this thorny issue: to try and discover exactly what wine would match Cadbury’s Dairy Milk!

Society members trying out the combinations.

Society members trying out the combinations.

‘Death by chocolate is a common form of wine extermination’ is a quotation I remember well from one of my favourite wine and food matching books; whilst this pronouncement might seem somewhat gloomy (especially considering we were devoting a whole morning to the subject) however, matching chocolate and wine is tricky but by no means impossible. It just demands a bit of experimentation…

So why does everyone say pairing chocolate and wine can’t be done?

Firstly, chocolate is a bit like cheese: when it melts in the mouth, it coats the palate making it tough to actually taste the flavours of the wine. Chocolate tends to be quite sweet, which can strip dry wines of all their fruit, leaving just acidity and tannins, and finally, good chocolate can be intensely flavoured.

The best way to tackle chocolate and wine matching is to heed some of the basic tenets of food and wine matching:

1. Generally, the wine must be at least as sweet as the chocolate; otherwise the chocolate will make the wine taste dry and bitter.
2. Avoid any wines which are too tannic as chocolate tends to make such wines taste even more so.
3. Consider the flavours and try to balance them – if your chocolate is very intense, make sure you match it with an equally intense wine or the chocolate will overpower it. The same principle works with delicate flavours.
4. Fortified wines can work well with chocolate as they have the added kick of alcohol which give them the power to stand up to the sweetness and mouth-coating texture of the chocolate. Look for wines such as sherries, tawny port, Madeira and fortified reds from the south of France.
5. If in doubt, try muscat. This grape variety has a real affinity with chocolate.

The art of matching wine and chocolate is not new; however on this particular occasion we decided that we wanted to explore matching wines with those chocolates you can buy on the High Street: Fruit and Nut, Galaxy, Kit Kat, or Chocolate Orange, etc. There had to be a wine out there which could stand up to such guilty pleasures…

A lot of preparation went into planning this workshop, with many within The Society becoming involved. Many combinations which we initially thought might work fell by the wayside, and it was some weeks (and half a stone) later that we ultimately narrowed down the winning combinations. In addition to this we had invited each member attending to bring their own favourite chocolate along, which also threw up a few surprises.

Chocolate and wine workshopFor some certain combinations were total winners, whilst others remained less convinced. In terms of wines, muscat-based wines generally worked, as well as the Madeira, whilst the most accommodating chocolates on the day were Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and Terry’s Chocolate Orange. A special case was also made for Hotel Chocolat’s salted caramels (brought along by at least two of the members attending the workshop as their chocolate of choice).

The overriding feeling at the end of the day was that whilst chocolate and wine matching is not an exact science, there is a lot of fun to be had by experimenting. That and a general sense of hyperactivity brought about by way too much sugar and alcohol – a winning combination!

Here’s what we tried on the day:

The chocolatesMoscato d’Asti, 2012, Perrone Elio (£7.50)
Pretty much went well with everything on the day, but the highlights were Brix Milk Chocolate, Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
The secret to this wine’s success with chocolate is the bubbles. The fizz helps to cut through the melty, chocolaty texture. Rather than masking the richness of the chocolate this light, refreshing and palate-cleansing wine does the opposite.

Gewurztraminer Calcaire, Domaine Zind Humbrecht 2011 (£16)
Matched with Green and Black’s White and Ginger Chocolate.
This particular gewurztraminer is made in quite a rich style and so we matched it with the white chocolate, as the two were well balanced in terms of their weight of flavour. The exotic flavours of rose petal, lychee and peach complemented the creamy vanilla flavours of the white chocolate. The ginger chocolate was a more contentious pairing, which made the wine taste spicier and drier.

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2010 (£8.75); 2011 vintage now available
We paired this one with the Brix Medium Dark Chocolate although many said that it also worked well with the dark chocolate.
I had to look very hard when trying to find a suitable red wine. The key here was to opt for a darker chocolate with higher cocoa solids and less sugar. This wine’s very ripe fruit flavours were complemented by vanilla from its oak ageing, which mirrored the flavours of the chocolate.

Royal Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2008 (£22)
We tried this with the Green and Black’s Butterscotch, Cadbury’s Caramel and Guylaine Pralines.
Tokaji Aszú is a unique style of wine: the addition of botrytised wine to that made from healthy grapes produces a wine with high levels of residual sugar, an alcoholic strength of around 10%, and tropical fruit flavours coupled with fresh acidity. It matched the chocolates’ sweetness whilst the caramel and nut flavours worked well too; what’s more, its tropical fruit flavours enhance the buttery caramel notes in the Butterscotch and Caramel chocolates.Many members said that this wine worked really well with Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2010 (£9.95 per half / £19 per 75cl bottle)
We tried this wine with the Green and Black’s White Chocolate and the Guylaine Pralines.
Again this wine is made from botrytised grapes which give the Sauternes a honeyed sweetness that worked well with the white chocolate. The sweetness of both chocolates and the Sauternes are matched, whilst the natural acidity in the Sauternes helped freshen the palate and stops the chocolate from appearing too sweet or cloying.

Nuy Red Muskadel (£8.95)
Worked well with the Guylaine Pralines and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
A fortified muscat which has a slightly oxidative character. Being made from muscat the wine has a lovely fruit quality to it, and being fortified, it has the guts to stand up to chocolate. I matched this wine with the praline and the Peanut Butter Cups as I really liked the sweet/savoury combination at work. This wine was a bit of a crowd-pleaser when it came to the chocolates as it was decided that it also worked with Bounty, Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and Crunchie!

The Society’s Exhibition Tawny Port 10 Years Old (£16.50)
Matched with Brix Medium Dark and Milk Chocolate and Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut.
A no brainer: this wine’s prolonged wood ageing and slightly oxidative character result in nutty, caramel-like, dried-fruit flavours that sang with the chocolate.

Maydie Tannat Vintage 2010 (£13.95)
Perfect with Kitkat, Bounty and Brix Dark Chocolate.
This sweet, fortified red hails from south-western France, and is rich, dense, with black currant and cherry fruit, framed by notes of chocolate and spice.

Henriques & Henriques Malvasia, 10 years old (£17)
This Madeira worked with everything! Fortified to stand up to the gooiest of candidates, plenty of acidity to cleanse the palate and caramel, nut and coffee flavours in abundance.
For me the combination of this Madeira with Crunchie was the highlight of the workshop. The honeycomb/burnt sugar combination was perfection – although I also suspect it might have been a ‘Marmite’ pairing as one member of staff at The Society, who shall remain nameless said it was the most horrendous paring they had ever come across! As they say, variety is the spice of life!

Emma Howat
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator

Categories : Wine Tastings


  1. Roddy McDonald says:

    We always finish special meals with dark chocolate truffles (prepared by my chocolatier partner) and our favourite choice of good Pedro Ximenez.

  2. Lisa Clarke says:

    What a shame you used confection for your efforts and not proper chocolate lovingly grown and produced with character and flavour notes. Chocolate is just like wine. The quality of decent chocolate is based on the terroir just like wine and then the careful processes to make the cocoa into chocolate bringing out the flavour notes at the same time. The bars you used were made with the lowest quality and cheapest cocoa available on earth, laced with sugar to hide the low quality and probably over roasted bitterness of the cocoa! (Apart from the Hotel Chocolat chocolates) You were basically matching wine with sugar and the confected flavours added to mask the low quality of the chocolate. Next time try Valrhona, Amedei, Michel Cluizel, Pralus… the list goes on. Chocolate is like wine! We, in the chocolate world wouldn’t dream of tasting high quality chocolate with lambrusco!!

    • Emma Howat says:

      Thank you very much for your comment, Lisa. A large part of the tasting focused on Brix chocolates, matched specifically with different styles of wine, but we also wanted to focus on readily available and popular choices. Indeed, we invited members to bring along their favourite chocolates to try with the wines. All in all therefore, the tasting covered quite a broad spectrum of styles, prices and indeed quality levels. We will certainly bear your recommendations in mind for any similar events in the future.

  3. Delia Evans says:

    A difficult subject, although I agree with Lisa’s comments, still found it very informative

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