As two of the world’s most cherished indulgences, wine and chocolate have won over hearts for centuries. They have maintained their status as symbols of luxury and indulgence to this day, never failing to bring an element of excitement and joy, whether you’re opening a box of chocolate truffles or uncorking a bottle of fine wine. Marrying these two can be a delightful yet intricate process. When balanced correctly, they create a symphony of flavours that will leave a long-lasting impression on your palate. This World Chocolate Day (July 7, 2023), join us as we explore the art and science of pairing wine and chocolate.
The Unique Chemistry of Wine and Chocolate
The key to mastering the complex art of wine and chocolate pairing is understanding the shared chemistry between the two. Both wine and cocoa contain polyphenols, antioxidants, flavanols and tannins (dark chocolate). These components can manifest as a bitter taste on your palate. This is why a full-bodied, tannic red wine paired with a 70% dark chocolate, will taste more astringent (bitter and sour).
A few purists would argue that chocolate and wine shouldn’t be paired, but we love to break rules every now and then and experiment with different possibilities. Continue reading if you would like to see our guidelines on how to pull off a successful wine and chocolate pairing.
The Creaminess of Milk Chocolate:
At a minimum cocoa content of 25%, milk chocolate’s creamy taste and composition makes it an easy pairing partner for various wines. The creaminess of milk chocolate mellows out the robustness of some wines and brings forward the fruitiness. So, when pairing, pick a wine that has vibrant fruit notes.
Dark Chocolate’s Bitter Dance:
Dark chocolate has a cocoa content of more than 55%. It contains polyphenols, similar to those in wine, that induce a slightly bitter taste. It’s these polyphenols that offer health benefits. When pairing dark chocolate, opt for a wine that can counterbalance this bitterness. A wine with inherent sweetness or vibrant fruit expressions can offset the bitterness and bring a harmonious combination.
White Chocolate, the Unique Charm:
Although not technically classified as “true” chocolate due to the absence of cocoa, white chocolate pairs wonderfully with various wines, including dry reds. The cocoa butter in white chocolate makes it rich and creamy, which softens the tannins in red wine. So, when in doubt, reach for white chocolate to pair with your favourite dry red wine!
Tips for Top Wine and Chocolate Pairings
Find the Balance: Opt for a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate you’re sampling. This prevents the sweet elements in both your wine and chocolate from clashing with each other and instead, creates a harmonious taste experience.
Matching Intensity: Seek out chocolate and wine that share similar depth and robustness. Light and subtle chocolates pair best with delicate wines, while strong and rich chocolates form a better alliance with full-bodied wines.
The Taste Progression: When you’re planning to sample multiple pairings, start light and build up the intensity. Begin your tasting journey with the lighter wines and chocolates and end with the richer, more intense flavours.
Avoid Bitter Duels: Beware of doubling down on bitter and sour tastes. Polyphenols in both chocolate and wine can create an overly bitter experience. To avoid this, steer clear of pairing bittersweet dark chocolate with tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec.
The Art of Pairing Wine and Chocolate
Pairing wine and chocolate is a personal journey as individual taste preferences may vary. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to move from light to dark, be it in chocolates or wines. Starting with the delicate white chocolate, moving to the richer milk chocolate, and finally to the robust dark chocolate, allows you to savour the full taste experience.
Simonsig wine and chocolate pairings to explore
Our selection of wines at Simonsig ensures a wide array of options for every palate. Here are a few of our wine and chocolate pairing suggestions for you to start experimenting with.
- White Chocolate and ‘Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar‘: The lighter profile of white chocolate sings when paired with our Satin Nectar Cap Classique. The creamy mouthfeel of Satin Nectar, combined with its floral and fruity notes, provides an impeccable balance to the sweet, buttery flavour of white chocolate.
- Milk Chocolate and ‘Pick of the Bunch Pinotage‘: With its low tannin and fruit-forward profile, this wine effortlessly highlights the sweet, creamy nature of milk chocolate, delivering a match made in heaven.
- Dark Chocolate (60%) and ‘Mr Borio’s Shiraz‘: Go bold with the intensity of our Shiraz. Its delicate spicy notes and rich fruitiness counteract the bitterness of dark chocolate, offering a sensory delight.
Going Beyond the Basics: Pairing Nuances
Once you’ve covered the cocoa content, the next step in your pairing journey is to explore additional flavours or ingredients in the chocolate, seeking commonalities in the profile of the wine. A chocolate with a hint of sea salt could beautifully complement a wine with a savoury undertone. Similarly, a minty chocolate might sing with a wine that has earthy or herbal hints.
Now that you have the basics covered, the fun begins and the final symphony is yours to create. There is no better time to get started than with this World Chocolate Day!
Tried a wine and chocolate pairing with one of our wines? We would love to see your creations! Share it on social media and be sure to tag us @simonsigwines.