The Chemistry Between Wine and Chocolate

written by Josiah Kahiu 14th February 2018

Our authority on all things wine, is here to tell us that there’s more to wine and chocolate than just a simple emotional attachment or marketing gimmick.

You probably thought that wine and chocolate were just a pairing made by marketers to move more product on Valentine’s day. Truth is, there is more science to this combination than might initially appear. It all boils down to chemistry. It may sound cliche’, talking about chemistry on this most ‘romantic’ of days, but the way chocolate is made, is similar to the way wine is. They are both fermented products and need the same yeasts to develop.

Wine and chocolate both have similar properties when it comes to the palate. Their complex and persistent flavours have a tendency to linger on your tongue. In fact, wine and chocolate both fight for the same taste regions on your palate. However, this similarity is also the reason why so many people tend to get the pairing wrong. Intense flavours such as theirs can and often do, exist on their own. This is because they need a specific harmony to work well together. Wine and chocolate both come in a range of different styles, flavours and intensity, so it is good to know what to pair before that pairing kills the romance of the night.

A good place to start when setting out to buy chocolate and wine is the type of chocolate you prefer. Keep in mind that the chocolate should never overpower or mask the flavour of the wine, meaning the wine should be sweeter than the chocolate, White chocolate (technically not chocolate as it does not contain cocoa only cocoa fat), is a relatively easy chocolate to pair with wine. Due to its sweetness and fattiness, it prefers wines that complement its flavours. In this case, think sweet to sweet. Thus, for example, a good fortified wine like Sherry works wonders with white chocolate. That said, on Valentines, the emotional appeal of bubbles cannot be underestimated, so if sweetness is the way you want to go, dip some strawberries in white chocolate and try pairing them with a demi-sec Champagne.

When it comes to milk chocolate, its also quite versatile when paired with wine. This is mainly due to the low cocoa content in the chocolate. The trick, like with white chocolate, is to match the flavours of the ingredients in the chocolate, with the flavours of the wine. One easily available wine that fits this job is a Pinot Noir. Try a wine from Oregon or a South American Pinot Noir, these regions produce fruit forward wines with notes of cranberry, cherries and vanilla. If you are a fan of milk chocolate with nuts, try a Vin Santo. This Tuscan sweet wine is full of caramel, hazelnut and honey notes, making it a perfect combination for nutty milk chocolate.

Now we come to the more difficult pairing – dark chocolate. Due to the presence of tannins in dark chocolate, it requires a wine that can match up to its intensity. Step in the red wines. The main thing to bear in mind here is a high percentage of cocoa needs a darker more tannic red wine. This allows the wine not to be overpowered by the chocolate. Wines that are good for dark chocolate are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel.

So if you’re sitting in traffic, wondering what to get your significant other on this our day of St Valentine, don’t bother buying overpriced roses that are close to their sell-by date, stop by your local supermarket and get some chocolate and wine!

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