Chocolate is a very hard food to match with wine. It is sweet and very viscous which is why we love it. However, those are the very killers of the finer characters of dry table wine. Many dry table wines will taste hard, stripped of flavour and just come up wanting unless they have massive alcohol and sweet fruit characters. Our friends state side have often written that Zinfandel is a wine that you can match with chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, partly because they tend to be high in alcohol and very ripe fruit. I have tasted this combination and it can work but it will not be everyone’s choice.
Components in wine such as acid, alcohol and bubbles all act to refresh the palate and, when you are talking chocolate, you need something to cut through that luxuriant viscosity. However, the sweetness of chocolate also needs to be adequately matched with the wine so that you are not left feeling that your wine has a sourness that is just a perception after such sweetness. Hence, you need to add sweetness to your list of attributes when looking for a wine to drink with chocolate.
Sounds impossible! However, there are a few wines that will stand up to the test. The Great Australian Liqueur Muscat or it’s Muscadelle partner – the Liqueur Tokay are definitely wines that will work. A PX (Pedro Ximenez) Sherry will also work. Gonzales Byass does one called Noe that is like liquid chocolate so you can drink it and leave the eggs to the kids. These wines are fortified and therefore have high alcohol as well as enough sugar to earn that descriptor ‘sticky’. This combination works well with chocolate and rich desserts.
Romantics will often try to match Champagne or Sparkling wine to chocolate – they say that it is the way to a loved ones heart. This can be very misleading due to the sweetness aspect. Again, if you work to match the sweetness of the chocolate to that of the wine you will find a way to have both. A velvety Sparkling red such as a Sparkling Shiraz will provide just enough sugar with be benefit of higher acid and bubbles. A sweet and richer style of Sparkling, like the Domaine Chandon NV Cuvee Riche will work with lighter styles of chocolate and dessert.
My preference is to enjoy the sensations of both quite separately, boring … I know. But I would rather have a great wine than a great Easter egg any day!