Red wine and chocolate are a natural combination, but don't pick just any old bottle off the shelf. Unless your wine is bold enough to stand up to the rich flavors of chocolate, the dessert will overpower your drink. When you know what qualities to look for in your vino, you can find the perfect complement for chocolate, creating a decadent and savory pairing.
1. Sweet for Sweet
Unlike milder desserts, chocolate has a bold, rich flavor that can easily overpower the wrong type of wine. For this reason, don't choose one of the drier varieties of wine; otherwise, you'll barely be able to taste it at all. While your chocolate should never be sweeter than your wine, your vino shouldn't be sugary, like a table wine. Instead, look for a varietal with a robust, fruity flavor, like a petite sirah or ruby port.
2. Region Matters
If you're looking for a starting point in your search for the perfect red wine to pair with your chocolate dessert, think geographically. Old World red wines from Italy or France, such as Chianti or merlot, are often too dry to pair with sweet chocolate; the tannins that leave your mouth feeling dry and puckered don't complement rich, smooth desserts. Instead, look to wines from regions like California; red zinfandel, for example, is typically sweeter, with juicy, fruity notes that pair well with chocolate.
3. The Chocolate Influence
Not all chocolates have the same flavor profile: While milk chocolate is smooth, creamy and sweet, dark chocolate can have a roasted, slightly bitter taste. Because sweeter desserts demand sweeter wines, if you don't enjoy wine with a jammy, fruity flavor, stick to dark chocolate desserts. The savory richness of dark chocolate pairs well with red wines that are darker and less fruit-forward, such as some pinot noirs or cabernets. This is because dark chocolate contains a smaller amount of sugar than lighter chocolates, making it less sweet, while emphasizing the complex flavors of cacao.
4. Other Factors
Don't forget about the other ingredients in your dessert; chocolate isn't the only flavor that your wine should complement. While dark chocolate pairs well with dry red wine on its own, when combined with sweeter ingredients like raspberry or caramel, the dessert demands a sweeter wine. Check the bottle to see what fruits are used to flavor your red wine to ensure that they complement the flavors in your dessert. Rich, dark berries or cherries, for example, pair well with dark chocolate, while sweet, tart berries, like raspberries, pair better with something lighter.
5. Sparkles With Dessert
Though sparkling rose wines are often sweet when they stand on their own, they aren't always a good pairing for chocolate desserts. Rose is typically made by blending red wine with white; those with comparably little red wine are a light pink hue, while those with a higher concentration of red are deeper in color. When paired with sweet, rich chocolate, light sparkling wines can taste acidic, as white wine is a poor match for chocolate desserts. Ultimately, like any other type of wine, the success of your sparkling pairing depends not only on the type of chocolate you're serving, but on the exact variety of what's in your bottle.