An informal rulebook to pair chocolate with wine created especially for you by master chocolatier Varun Inamdar
Wine and chocolate are two things that most people enjoy. If you’re willing to get down to some delicious experimentation, start right here.
Start with a wine that is slightly sweeter than the chocolate because both carry their own intensities and can create a strong power play. They must eventually both taste well together, and balance, and not overpower each other. You know they don’t if the chocolate overshadows the wine's tannins on the palate—tannins lend wine it’s texture, bitterness, astringency and complexity.
Taste from light to dark chocolate and light, medium to full-bodied wine. Similar to formal wine tasting, if you will be experimenting with several varieties of chocolates, work from light white chocolate through milk chocolate and end on the drier notes of dark chocolate.
If you find white a delight: White chocolate tends to be mellow and buttery in flavour, making it an ideal candidate for the sweeter styles of Sherry possibly a full-bodied Pedro Ximénez, and the sweet, subtle bubbles of Italy's Moscato d'Asti or the heady aromas of an Orange Muscat.
If you’re going the milky way: The ripe, red fruit and often lighter body and silky tannins of a Pinot Noir or a medium-bodied Merlot will work well with the smooth character and cocoa butter components of milk chocolate or a creamy chocolate mousse.
Riesling, Muscat or the range of notable dessert wines hold up quite well to the mild profile of milk chocolate. If you fancy milk chocolate dipped strawberries, pair it with a sparkling wine. The bright acidity and fusion of bubbles bring out the intense fruit flavours and chocolate accents particularly well.
The rich textures, fresh fruit flavours, hints of chocolate and sweet profile of Ruby Port makes it a no-brainer for pairing with many milk and dark chocolate varieties.
If you have a dark side: Dark or bittersweet chocolates, with higher cacao content call for a wine that offers a fuller body, robust aromas and intense flavours.
Zinfandels, made famous by California, with their dense fruit, energetic spice and often higher alcohol levels enjoy a long legacy of handling dark chocolate delights exceptionally well.
How to begin: If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive DIY way to experiment with wine and chocolate pairings, simply pick up a few bars of premium chocolate, and a good bottle of wine. You’ll need to do a few experiments to find your palate preferences. Finally, always believe something amazing is going to happen while pairing the lovely two :)
Some ‘classic’ pairings:
- White Chocolate: Late harvest or ice wines, Orange Muscat, Moscato d'Asti, slightly sweet rosé, Brachetto d'Acqui, Tokaji, and German Riesling on the sweet end of the spectrum
- Milk Chocolate: Port, Madeira, Vin Santo, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, some sweeter styles of sparkling wine
- Dark Chocolate: Port, PX Sherry, Banyuls, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
- Chocolate with Sea Salt: Salt amps up flavours, so opt for either end of the wine spectrum with a white wine pick like a sweet-styled Late Harvest Gewürztraminer or a fruit-driven, food-friendly Zinfandel or even a Malmsey Madeira.
- Chocolate with Nuts (including peanut butter cups): Madeira, tawny Port, PX or Oloroso Sherry, Shiraz
- Chocolate with Berries: Banyuls, sparkling wines, Brachetto d'Acqui, Moscato d'Asti, ruby Port
- Chocolate with Caramel: Madeira, Tawny Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, sweet sparkling wines
- Chocolate with Mint: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Shiraz, Moscato d'Asti, some sweet dessert-style red wines
- Chocolate Cake: Banyuls, Madeira, Port, PX Sherry, Vin Santo, Shiraz
Varun Inamdar represented India at the 2nd Cocoa Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, in 2016.
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