Chocolate and wine are the two greatest pleasures of life, but pairing them can be a real challenge. Both have intense flavors and complexity, and a proper pairing could be a hit on your palate. Whether you are pairing the sometimes creamy, subtle nuances of delicate white chocolate or the lively strong tones of dark chocolate with a favorite wine, our comprehensive guide on how to pair wine and chocolate can be of much help.

Rules of thumb on how to pair wine and chocolate

Both chocolate and wine bring you joy in their own way, so it’s always tempting to pair the two together. But before you pop the cork on a wine bottle and tear a box of chocolates, there are a few things you should keep in mind so you don’t ruin the taste of both of your treats.

Velvety, silky, and soft wines are chocolate's best friend.

Both wine and chocolate can offer intense, dry flavors. When you pair a bar of dark, bittersweet chocolate with a bold red wine that's high in tannins, the result can be overwhelming on the palate. Therefore, it's important to choose wines that are a touch softer and juicier than the chocolate you're matching it with to strike the proper balance.

Polyphenols in wine and chocolate also affect your pairing. According to scientific research, polyphenols found in wine and chocolate (the components that make them beneficial - anti-inflammatory) are responsible for giving wines their tannic notes and dark chocolates their bitter flavors. If you serve a dry wine with bittersweet chocolate, the experience will end up unpleasant due to an overload of polyphenols.

Find the right sweet spot. 

While it might sound a bit counterintuitive, a wine that is "sweeter" than the chocolate actually works quite well in terms of wine and chocolate pairing. And "sweet" here does not refer to dessert wines alone. In the wine world, the term "sweet" is sometimes used to describe ripe, fruit-forward flavors in a wine. These characteristics offer a nice balance to the bitter flavors of cocoa

How to pair wine and chocolate: Pair similar intensities

When in doubt on how to pair wine and chocolate, it's a good idea to create pairings that have a similar style and weight. Less intensely-flavored chocolates go nicely with lighter-bodied wines, while chocolates with stronger flavors can stand up to fuller-bodied wines.

Taste from light to dark

Just as you would with any other tasting, it's a good practice to start with light chocolates and wines and work your way up in intensity. You can start with light wines and white chocolates and save the richest, dark wines and chocolates for last. By starting light and working your way dark, you can taste the subtler notes at play. If you begin the pairing with dark chocolate and then try white or milk, you will miss out on a lot of the flavors.

How to pair wine and chocolate: Consider any other ingredients

Consider how the flavors of other components in your chocolate, such as nuts, fruit, or caramel, will interact with the wine. For example, a chocolate bar studded with dried cranberries might pair well with a fruit-forward red wine with berry notes.

Our recommendations on how to pair wine and chocolate

Wines to pair with white chocolate

White chocolate is usually more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal option for the sweeter styles of Spain's rich, full-bodied Sherry, and the sweet, subtle bubbles of Italy's Moscato wine. Or, the heady aromas of an Orange Muscat could also make a good match. Simply explained, the Sherry and Moscato reds will complement the chocolate's creamy textures and the Orange Muscat brings out any fruit fixtures that may be hidden within the chocolate. 

Another option for wine and white chocolate mixing is to go for contrast flavors. It could be a little riskier but when the tasting contrast works well, the wine and chocolate pairing is unforgettable. For example, a Zinfandel, with its higher alcohol and full-bodied, intense forward fruit characteristics, can be partnered with the mild textures and buttery profile of white chocolate to create an unusual "melding" affect. The wine's tannin content gradually softens under the chocolate's fat profile and delivers the ripe Zin fruit right to the surface.

Milk chocolate wine pairings

Good milk chocolate is usually about half chocolate and half cream–like the much-loved ganache chocolate truffles dusted in cocoa powder. The extra fat from the cream ingredient makes milk chocolate one of the easiest yet “true” chocolates to pair with wine.

The ripe, red fruit flavors and often lighter body and silky tannins of a Pinot Noir or a medium-bodied Merlot red (try this Jacob’s Creek Merlot) will go well with the smooth character and cocoa butter components of milk chocolate, a chocolate accented cheesecake, or a creamy chocolate mousse. 

Jacob’s Creek Riesling white wine, Muscat, or the range of renowned dessert wines tend to also stand up quite well to the soft mouthfeel and integrated profile of milk chocolate. Also, you can consider a sparkling wine or Champagne bottle for pairing with milk chocolate-dipped strawberries. The bright acidity and fusion of bubbles in these wines will bring out the intense fruit flavors and chocolate accents well. Take a look at this Chandon Brut sparkling. It is a great classic sparkling wine made of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The result is a fruity, elegant, creamy, well-balanced fizz with notes of citrus, peach, and apple to hold up the distinct flavors of milk chocolate.

Finally, when in doubt, nothing can beat a classic red wine. The rich textures, fresh fruit flavors, hints of chocolate, and sweet profile of Ruby Port red wine make it a no-brainer for pairing with milk and dark chocolate choices.

Dark chocolate wine pairings

Dark or bittersweet chocolates are chocolate with higher cacao content (by definition a minimum of 35% cocoa solids). This type of dessert calls for a wine that has a fuller body, robust aromas, and intense flavor with bold fruit and perhaps its own chocolatey nuances. 

As such, a Zinfandel red wine, with its dense fruit, energetic spice, and often higher alcohol levels has a long legacy of handling dark chocolate delights. For example, Lodi, a well-known wine-growing region in California, prioritizes Zinfandel and chocolate pairings at their annual Wine and Chocolate weekends. 

Furthermore, the bold structure, full-bodied profile, juicy black fruit, and noticeably defined tannin of a Cabernet Sauvignon make the wine a natural pairing for all drier styles of dark chocolates. For example, a bottle of Gato Cabernet Sauvignon red wine is hard to beat. It offers bold, elegant flavors with notes of strawberries and chocolate to create a delicious mouthfeel when paired with your dark chocolate recipes.

For dark chocolate around the 55% cocoa mark, you can consider a Pinot Noir or a Merlot to handle the dessert's flavors.

Hazelnut chocolate and wine pairing

Hazelnut chocolate consists of a creamy chocolate ganache studded with chopped hazelnuts and dunked in dark chocolate. These small treats are easy to make and will surely be a crowd-pleaser at your get-together.

For this wine and chocolate pairing, what grows together, goes together! The nutty flavors of hazelnuts, which is a staple of Piemonte, are complemented by Barolo red wine. This is an aromatic, lightly sweet red wine of Piemonte. It is robust but elegant at the same time, with high tannins content that softens with aging.

How to taste wine and chocolate together

Now that you've got the big picture on how to pair wine and chocolate. It's time to jump into action. In order to taste chocolate and wine together, keep in mind some rules and tips as follows:

Step 1: First and foremost, smell and taste your wine choice to understand the aromas and flavors, and then do the same with the chocolate. 

Step 2: Place a piece of chocolate bar in your mouth and chew it until it is melted completely. Working the chocolate with your tongue is the very first step to incorporating some saliva from your mouth. The idea is to mix chocolate in warm liquid beforehand so that the next step, adding the cold liquid - wine won't be such a shock to the chocolate and cause it to seize.

Step 3: When the chocolate gets a thin consistency, you can take a sip of wine. Make sure that you take the same amount of wine as the amount of chocolate in your mouth.

Step 4: Combine the wine and the chocolate together in your mouth by gently swishing. At this step, you can pay attention to the taste and texture sensations of the two.

Final notes

Personal palate profiles differ from person to person, thus a wine and chocolate pairing that appeals to one palate may not appeal to another. Perhaps the most important rule to remember when it comes to wine and chocolate pairing is to indulge in what you enjoy. 

Follow these pairing suggestions as a fundamental guide on how to pair wine and chocolate, but if you find a pairing that you particularly appreciate, go for it!