There are some who believe pairing chocolate with wine is a non-starter.
I think differently.
After hosting many Chocolate with Wine pairing events over the past 10 years I have learned a few guiding principles about what pairings work the best and how to best pair these two. The idea is to find complimentary flavours in both the chocolate and the wine so together they make a powerful combination. Or on the other hand, to look for flavour profiles that are in contrast with each other that will create unusual but delightful tasting experiences.
The process begins with working with an incredibly knowledgeable sommelier. Because as much as I have consumed my share of wine, I am by no means an expert and if we want our pairings to be the best, expertise is required! Robert White is our partner and as a graduate of the Algonquin College Sommelier program, the past Director of the National Capital Sommelier Program and the host of numerous wine tasting events, Robert brings a wealth of knowledge to our pairing sessions.
So what pairings work best? Robert provides me with a list of wines he believes will work well with chocolate generally speaking. For the most part these are lists are red wines. Red wines work really well with chocolate, but not all red wines. We stay away from Cabernet Sauvignons simply based on their high tannins that make it difficult to pair well with chocolate. And we’re still trying to find a pairing of chocolate and tempranillo wine that wows us.
Starting with a list of wine suggestions from Robert, I then do a little research on the wine’s flavour profile, but also on the suggested food pairings for that wine. This gives me some insight about the wine and a starting point for chocolate possibilities. For instance if Thai food is a suggestion for pairing with a wine, why wouldn’t a dark chocolate with ginger and lime infusions also work well? It does!
Once I have determined a few chocolate options, Robert and I get together to try out the pairs. Most work but we’re looking for WOW! We want our guests to have an incredible tasting experience so the “okay” pairings are put to the side and the really amazing ones are served to our guests.
Of course, everyone’s palate is different and thus everyone has their own opinion of what is a WOW tasting, so at each event we ask for opinions, favourites and feedback. From this interaction we have been reassured many times over that our pairings are a beautiful thing! And we have tweaked a few based on consistent feedback - “good but not great” goes back to the drawing board.
Below I have listed the top rated pairings, so if you’re a skeptic give some of them, or all of them, a try and let me know what you think! If you already believe, like I do, that chocolate and wine are meant to be enjoyed together, start working your way through our list and send me a note with your favourites. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In no particular order….
1) Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz is a big, bold fruity Australian wine with earthy tones, hints of spice and strong berry notes. One bottle and 4 pairings!
SOMA Bachelors Hall 70% and Dick Taylor’s 72% Belize are single origin bars with fruity notes, lovely texture and a smooth melt. When paired with this big bold fruity Shiraz, it’s a fruit explosion!
CÓCÓ’s Raspberry Balsamic 70% bar has intense raspberry flavour and a tartness from the balsamic. It plays beautifully, and unexpectedly, with the wine’s fruit notes but also highlights the more subtle spice notes in the wine.
Sirene’s Mayan Spice 73% bar is made with the intensely fruity Guatemalan cocoa and a chili mix made in Cahabon, Guatemala. It highlights the spice notes in the wine, slightly downplaying the fruit a bit and bringing the spice to the forefront.
2) Catena Malbec, Argentina is a rich full bodied wine with flavour notes of berry fruits, dark chocolate and spices. A silky, slightly dry mouthfeel makes it perfect for a a smooth creamy bar. The perfect pairing for this wine is Finnia’s Honduras 70% bar. The one and only. The chocolate melts beautifully releasing flavours of rich chocolate, caramel and almond. A pairing of contrasts in perfection.
3) Beronia Rioja Reserva, Spain is a medium bodied and fruity wine matured in oak barrels with a crazy flavour profile! Intense black fruits, liquorice, chocolate and cloves. Deep, dark and spicy with vanilla and smoke flavours. We have paired with two very different single origin bars to highlight different notes in the wine.
Sirene Guatemala 73% is an intensely fruity bar and really plays up the fruit notes in the wine. This is a thick bar and the melt is long and delicious, rich and full and is a wonderful textural partner for this wine.
Desbarres Kilombero 72% is a Tanzanian cocoa with slight complexity, earthy chocolate flavour with hints of caramel and citrus that highlights the wine’s vanilla, and allows the non-fruit flavours to shine through.
If you’re interested in a mind blasting pairing try this wine with CÓCÓ’s Raspberry Balsamic 70% bar! Both the wine and the chocolate have intense, bold flavours so the combination of these two is explosive.
4) Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico, Italy is a full bodied, smooth wine with cherry, currant, leather and herbal flavour notes. We enjoy this wine with two single origin bars with fruity flavour profiles.
Finnia’s Dak Lak 70% dark bar is Vietnamese origin with beautiful fruity flavours led by raisin and plum, highlighting the notes of currants in the wine.
Sweetness Peru 68% dark bar is a little sweeter with deep fruit notes of raspberry and hints of vanilla. The mouthfeel is very smooth with a slow creamy melt allowing the flavours to linger on the palate long after the chocolate is gone. This is the moment to drink the wine, and let it mingle with the chocolate flavours left behind.
5) Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi is once again available and we couldn’t be more pleased! We love the pairings we have for this powerful wine with smoky, fruity, sweet flavours of cinnamon, dark berries and vanilla. This powerful wine needs powerful chocolate, so we have paired it with two Hummingbird bars, Mayan 68% and Hispaniola 70%. Start your pairing with Hummingbird’s Hispaniola 70% bar. This multiple award winning bar is the fruity bar the wine likes! Pronounced notes of raisin and cherry highlight the fruit in the wine, making for as sweet a pairing could be 70% dark chocolate! On the other hand, the Hummingbird Mayan 68% bar takes this pairing to another place entirely. With cinnamon, nutmeg and chili in the chocolate, the smokiness of the wine becomes more pronounced, the spice notes dominate and the pairing is a hot one!
Keep an eye out on our Chocolate Events listing for our upcoming Chocolate with...Wine event dates and join us for a fun evening of pairing chocolate and wine!