Pairing wine with chocolate is a research project for both connoisseurs and chocoholics. Everyone’s flavor palate is different, but there are a few good parameters to follow:
Light, creamy and smooth chocolate (milk) should be paired with lighter bodied wines. Dark, rich and strong chocolate should be paired with full-bodied wines.
These are only guidelines, not rules. Another important fact to remember is that the wine should be a slightly or more sweet than the chocolate, otherwise you will end up with a sour or bitter taste.
Tanariva 33%: Pure Madagascar Balanced acidity softened by distinctive milk and caramel notes.
A light fruity Pinot Noir from Oregon or Sonoma melds with the milky caramel profile of this milk chocolate and brings out the fruitiness (cherry/raspberry) of the wine. One could also try a velvety rich Californian cabernet Sauvignon to really bring out the dark cherry and spice. If you prefer your wines sweet, try a ruby port (which hasn’t seen any oak — it’s bottled right after fermentation).
Manjari 64%: Pure Madagascar Fresh, acidic, sharp bouquet with red fruit notes.
Here is a versatile pairing chocolate that works with both white and red wines. Manjari’s fresh, fruity notes pair well with a fruity, high acid Sauvignon Blanc from either California or New Zealand. The citrus flavors really shine here. One can also opt for the dessert style Rieslings from Washington state or Germany. For reds, go with a strong spicy Californian Zinfandel to soften the acidity of the chocolate; great combination.
Caraibe 66%: Flavor Profile Aromatic and long finish reveals almond and delicate roasted flavors.
Here’s a chocolate that pairs with both warm and cooler climate Cabernet Sauvignon blends (California and Bordeaux). Caraïbe is all about roasted nuttiness, not fruit. A light earthy Bordeaux brings out this earthiness in the chocolate making them a great match. A mountain grown (Howell, St. Helena) Californian Cabernet Sauvignon would also make for a fine pairing with its more structure driven style of cassis and baking spices.
Jivara Lait 40% Milk chocolate with pronounced cocoa taste, notes of malt and vanilla.
A moderately oaked Merlot from the Napa Valley offers enough fruit of plum, cassis and dark cherry along with the vanilla to pair with the cocoa, malt and vanilla of this milk chocolate. Also try a dessert wine from Southern France named Banyuls. The Grenache based wine will show lots of dark fruit while enhancing the prominent cocoa flavor of the chocolate.
Alpaco 66% Pure Ecuador. Jasmine and orange blossom notes give way to a long finish of refined bitterness and woody flavors.
Here is and example of when a strong velvety cabernet sauvignon and a chocolate taste completely different on their own, but change dramatically when tasted together. The nutty bitterness of Alpaco melds with the high acid and tannins of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruits of cherry and cranberry emerge along with the flavor of peanuts and almonds when the two are together. A Malmsey Madeira is also right at home here; sharing nutty character, while bringing out the fruity tang of the Madeira.
Abinao 85% Cocoa beans from Africa create powerful tannins with a strong, lingering intensity.
A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State or California works best here, but don’t forget to try a rich, spicy Zinfandel from California too. The strong tannic Abinao and these strong tannic wines become a creamy rich pairing where the cocoa becomes prominent. Currant and white pepper spice really show through, too.
Guanaja 70% Intense flavor, floral notes with an exceptionally long finish.
Bordeaux’s left bank (aka Cabernet Sauvignon based, with a good amount of Cabernet France and Merlot) is a perfect pairing here. This strong, nutty and fruity chocolate brings out the cassis and dark cherry of the wine. Guanaja’s mix of flavors blend well with Bordeaux’s blend of grapes. An Australian Shiraz/Grenache blend brings out a tangy yet creamy side of Guanaja. For the sweeter side, try a slightly sparkling Moscato d’Asti from the region of Piedmont in Italy. The citrus and peach driven fruit and bubbles pop their way into the fruit and nuttiness of the chocolate.