There are some who swear that nothing is more luxurious than letting a bit of chocolate melt on the tongue only to be swished away with a swig of wine. But sadly, not everyone is a believer in chocolate and wine, there are those who swear that they are nothing more than a terminable, incompatible pairing.
But what if a third element came into the mix? After all, straight-up chocolate has somewhat gone out of style. Today’s trends are all about chocolate with sea salt, pepper, fruit, popcorn, nuts, and even bacon.
So the question becomes whether or not harmony can be found in a controversial culinary threesome. Let’s find out.
Chocolate and Wine Pairing Basics
Chocolate and wine pairings can go one of two ways: contrast or complement. Pairings can match similar characteristics: sweet with sweet, powerful with powerful, citric fruit with citric fruit. Or, they can put opposites together and create a bit of chemistry: sugar with acidity, red berries with cinnamon, sweet with salty.
Threesome Chocolate Pairings to Love or Hate
No food and wine pairing is ever a guarantee. No two tongues or tastes are exactly alike and, as with love, the more you try, the more you experiment, the more you learn what it is you’re longing for.
Here are some recommendations for chocolate and wine pairings with a twist: an added third element that takes a good thing and makes it even better.
White Chocolate with Dried Cherries
Because white chocolate doesn’t contain any actual cocoa, it’s technically a chocolate impostor. But we won’t disbar it from this little experiment. White chocolate with dried cherries is a delicious pairing for crisp, fruit-forward rosés. The ripe red fruit of both the wine and chocolate complement each other, while the high acidity of the wine cleans away the fat content and unctuous texture of the chocolate after every sip.
Milk Chocolate Coated Popcorn
An aged sparkling wine is the ideal accompaniment to fresh popcorn drizzled in milk chocolate. The refreshing acidity cuts through the cloying sweetness of the milk chocolate while highlighting the nuttiness of the popcorn. Not to mention that the effervescence and crunch are a delight all their own.
Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans
Coffee and chocolate together can be a tannic overdose, particularly when paired with robust red wines. Therefore, silky round reds such as Malbec and Merlot, with lush red and black fruits and subtle oak aging, make for a tantalizing threesome. You’ll recognize sheer harmony when you sense the ripe fruit and sweetness on the attack, then the coffee second, and the fruit flavors once again. They ebb and flow, one after the other, letting each element sing in turn.
Black Pepper Corn Dark Chocolate
Chili pepper and black pepper chocolate can be hard to find, but easy to love. On the palate, they prick the senses with a bit of heat just at the finish. When paired with a fruity, spiced wine, such as an aged Shiraz or Grenache, the fruit and spice each come through. If the chocolate has a lot of spice, it’s best to avoid wines with high alcohol as you’ll feel the alcohol burn the back of your throat and the spice prickle in the same place…not so pleasant.
Chocolate Covered Bacon
This is a tricky one. Some chocolate bars are packed full of bacon flavor, and others offer just a hint. For truly bacony chocolate, which is sweet, salty, fatty, and hickory smoked all at once,you’ll want an aged fortified wine such as Sherry or Madeira to play against the saltiness and complement the hickory smoke.
In all of these pairings, the flavors and textures develop over time. You may sense fruit and sweetness just as the wine hits your palate, while tannins, bitterness, and spice come out towards the finish.
Though the world of wine is wrought with seemingly indecipherable rules, wine and chocolate pairing comes down to a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: What do you like? The answer always lies at the opposite end of trial and error. With that in mind, don’t let the naysayers dissuade you from experimenting with a little ménage á trois.
All photos are courtesy of the author.