WINE AND CHOCOLATE PAIRING
Wine and chocolate mentioned in the same breath piques the interest of many. But this pair that has been partnered together for years can actually be rather challenging! Remember that both wine and chocolate have strong personalities, which can translate into competition for the same palate space. Understanding their similarities and the way they interact with each other can make all the difference in creating a successful pairing.
During their development, both wine and chocolate undergo fermentation, which for chocolate darkens its color and helps round out and remove some of the harsher tannins. The process of fermentation for wine happens when yeast converts the sugars present in grapes to alcohol and transforms the juice into wine. Even without the barrel aging that is common in most red wines, there is still an abundance of tannin present from the grape skins, pips (seeds), and stems. Tannins create a drying sensation along with added bitterness and astringency.
Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to pair your chocolate with a still, sparkling, or fortified wine that has more residual sugar (sweetness) than your chocolate. Dark chocolate has the least sugar and the most cacao, which makes it the easiest to pair with dry red wine. However, the darker the chocolate the more perceivable the tannins, which are also abundantly present in dry red wine. Managing the tannin power play between these two is of key importance.
But what if you don’t have a sweet wine on hand and your palate enjoys a particular style of both wine and chocolate?
Just try one of our suggestions! These less common and more edgy pairings are some of our favorites at Columbia Winery.
KEEPING IT LIGHT WITH OUR 2019 GRENACHE ROSÉ
Our Grenache Rosé is a dry wine packed with aromas of strawberry, cranberry, and hints of raspberry. Here, a 60% or more cocoa chocolate crafted with fruit flavors would complement the aromas of the Grenache Rosé and create a great pairing.
TAKING THE MIDDLE GROUND WITH OUR 2017 WEINBAU MERLOT
Our single vineyard Merlot is packed with notes of black plum and blackberries and a touch of mocha. Here a dark chocolate with salted almonds or other nuts would delight the palate.
GOING BOLD WITH OUR 2017 RED MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Our Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is not for the faint of heart. Here, the bold dark cherry and black raspberry characteristics mix with toasted oak notes of cocoa and vanilla. Choosing a rich and smooth dark chocolate truffle will tame a bit of the tannin present in the wine and have you reaching for another bite and sip.
As always, wine and food pairing is a personal preference, and there are no absolute right or wrong answers. Whatever you choose to pair your wine with, we hope it’s a memorable experience.
- Shelly Fitzgerald, Wine Education, CS, CSW, AWE, WSET Level 3