Wine-Chocolate Pairings: Hitting the Sweet Spot

The concept of pairing wine and chocolate together is a popular one. Considering that the fermentation process of wine involves essentially the same substance that’s involved in processing cocoa beans to produce chocolate, it’s no surprise that the idea of pairing the two items together appeals to people at such an instinctive level. However, anyone who’s been to a handful of weddings – where chocolate cake is often served around the same time as champagne – also knows that not just any type of alcoholic beverage is a good match with chocolate, and the wrong combination can leave a lot to be desired.

The most important principle to keep in mind when attempting this pairing is that chocolate should only be served with a wine that’s equally intense and equally sweet, as opposed to table wine – keeping in mind that chocolate is not only sweet but also acidic, bitter, and fruity. Thus, port wines with berry flavors tend to be a good choice. Here are some other wines that pair well with specific types of chocolate, so consider serving these with cakes, mousses, and other desserts accordingly:

  • Sweet Riesling, Moscatel de Setubal, Montilla-Moriles, Rasteau, Rutherglen Muscat, PX Sherry, creamy sherry, aged vintage port, and a whole variety of dessert wines all pair well with milk chocolate.
  • For dark chocolate, Petit Syrah and Merlot are recommended.
  • Merlot also goes nicely with dark semisweet chocolate, as does Pinot Noir.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are great for dark bittersweet chocolate.
  • Although “white chocolate” is not technically chocolate at all, it’s worth considering pairing the following types of wine with white chocolate desserts: vintage port, Rosé port, Muscat, Orange Muscat, Moscato d’Asti, ice wine, Sweet Tokaji, Dolce or Amabile Lambrusco, and Brachetto d’Acqui.

If, on the other hand, suggesting wine pairings for desserts to your patrons still feels risky, consider what’s on the rest of your menu. Robust red wines like 2004 Montevina Amador County Syrah, for instance, pair nicely with spicy molé sauces – which of course also contain chocolate! It can truly be said that chocolate-wine pairings of many sorts offer your customers a full range of sweet, sweet possibilities.


Josh Saunders