Saturday, February 11, 2012

What Is It About Red Wine And Chocolate?

Bittersweet and SemiSweet Chocolate
with yummy Jack Syrah from Saviah

I was looking back on my old articles and noticed that over the years I have written three articles on “Red Wine & Chocolate”. The funny thing was that when I wrote those articles, each time I was talking about events and not about the actual reason behind why we eat chocolate with red wines.

Actually, I hadn’t really thought about it quite frankly. Everyone always just eats chocolate with red wine. There are always the big events that happen around Valentines season. But, those are just a marketing gimmick to get you into a tasting room somewhere and buy some wine from a starving winemaker.

My question goes a lot deeper. What makes red wine and chocolate so tasty? Why do we even go so far as to manufacture and drink wines that are chocolate? (Personally, I think the whole chocolate wine thing is nasty, but there are people who buy and drink a lot of the stuff.) Also, for those of us who have failed at this, what is a good pairing verses a bad pairing.

Part of understanding of paring wine with chocolate has to do with the astringency and strength of both the wine and the food. Some dark chocolates can be very bitter and astringent to taste. On the other hand, some chocolates can be creamy and smooth, such as Swiss milk chocolate. Some chocolate is sweet, and other is relatively bitter. Some is fatty, and other types can be quite dry.

Likewise, there are wines that are also astringent, sweet, bitter, acidic, and fruity depending on the varietal and blend. In doing my research for this article, (no cocoa beans were killed in the making of this column), I found several charts that explained this methodology in detail. The best chart that I found online was written by Karen Hochman in an article on .

Hochman carefully explains different kinds of chocolate and the esters found in that particular kind. She then explains how that pairs with different wines based on their own makeup. For example, Hochman explains that bittersweet chocolate has features of roasted, ashy, woodsy, and nutty notes. This is chocolate that is in the 70% to 100% cacao range. Because of the strong flavors found in this type of chocolate there is a demand for stronger red wines. Dark red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Merlot tend to pair better with this type of chocolate.

Semisweet Chocolate has a tendency to pair very well with the same dark red wines as the bittersweet types. Ports and Zinfandels bring out the spices of the chocolate. Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to bring out the nutty and fruit notes of chocolate.

Milk Chocolate is a much sweeter, and higher sugar content type of chocolate. Because of the milk content you will taste more vanilla, brown sugar, and other creamy-caramel flavors. This type of chocolate does not pair with dark wines. Try pairing these with Muscats and Ice Wines. You can also pair milk chocolate with very mature Tawny Ports.

For more in depth pairings I suggest going to Karen’s article at . It is very well written, and a great resource.



  1. Sadly if I have chocolate with red wine a migraine is not far behind.

  2. Lately I've been into drinking Malbec with chocolate that is about 60% cacao, absolutely fantastic!

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