It feels like pairing two things we adore should always result in something delicious. Alas, while wine and chocolate are both wonderful, they aren’t always wonderful together. But of course there are exceptions – and many to explore.
Although tannin, sweetness, acidity, and bitterness in chocolate can clash with those properties in wine, finding the right pairing is all about matching intensities. A piece of single-origin dark chocolate, for example, packs much more flavor per square inch than a gooey slice of chocolate cake, and therefore will be trickier to pair. Likewise, a chocolate-covered strawberry and a chocolate peanut butter cup have very different flavors, thus pair quite differently.
Ultimately, whatever tastes good to you is a good pairing, but it’s also great to have a few starting points. Read on for six chocolate pairings we’ve tried, tested, and loved.
Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Laurent-Perrier Harmony Demi-Sec Champagne
Strawberries and Champagne are an iconic pairing for a reason! But not just any Champagne will pair well with chocolate-covered strawberries — you need wine with a bit of sweetness. As America loses its sweet tooth with wine and we move toward drier styles, it’s worth going back to the sweeter stuff when it comes to dessert pairings.
So, where a juicy, tart strawberry covered in a sweet, tannic chocolate could otherwise be tricky to pair, the bubbles and sweetness in a demi-sec Champagne will match perfectly. Plus, the fruit flavors in the wine play nicely with the fruit itself. (Cheese lovers: This principle applies to honey and cheese, too. Sweetness smooths out harshness — acidity and bitterness don’t faze it.)
Milk Chocolate Caramels and Don Q Gran Añejo Rum
Rum is all too often relegated to the “good-in-a-cocktail” part of our bars, and that’s a shame. The nutty, fruity flavors of a quality aged rum are similar to the flavors we love in bourbon, and often have more balance and finesse. The desserty yet dry flavors in Don Q Gran Añejo pair beautifully with caramels covered in milk chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Bar with Salted Almonds and Nikka Pure Malt Taketsuru Whisky
Japanese Whisky has been called “like Scotch but perfect.” This blend of two single malts, named after Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru, is fruity, lightly smoky, and balanced. Paired with a salted almond dark chocolate bar, the malt flavors get even toastier and more pastry-like. Totally lovely.
Chocolate Cake with Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
Stout already has chocolatey notes, thanks to the extra-roasted malt, but when made into a sturdy imperial stout like this one from Brooklyn Brewery, the chocolate character really shines. And, when you think about it, it’s kind of a no-brainer to pair chocolatey grain flavors in a beer with chocolate flavors in a cake.
Madagascar Dark Chocolate Bar and Boulard VSOP Pays d’Auge Calvados
Dark chocolate from Madagascar tends to have notes of raspberry and blood orange — a delightful surprise for those new to single-origin chocolate. The honeyed stone fruit notes of the Calvados let the sunshine-y fruit flavors in the chocolate shine, too.
Peanut Butter Cups and Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Oloroso Sherry
Forget those peanut butter cup Martinis and open a bottle of sherry instead! While the fortified wine carries a fusty reputation (at least in the U.S.), sherry ranges from dry to sweet and is one of the most savory, pairable wines out there, thanks to the magic (or, fine, science) of oxidation. A dark, nutty oloroso brings out the toasty, salty peanut flavors in the peanut butter cup for complete sweet-savory bliss.