By Alex Bazzy, Cantoro Trattoria General Manger and Sommelier
The common ingredient and the potential deal killer here are a group of chemical compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that are actually good for us, in moderation of course. The polyphenols in cacao (cocoa/chocolate) are mostly “flavonoids” while the ones found in grapes are mostly “tannins”. The common denominator besides the fact they come from the same class of chemicals; they both taste bitter!
For me, the main thing to remember when pairing them is not to double-up on the polyphenols. Avoid pairing a bittersweet, high percentage cacao chocolate, with a big, high tannins cabernet sauvignon. Also, try to think about placing lighter wines with lighter foods, matching sweetness with sweetness and intensity with intensity. I never reach for a brut style Champagne in these situations either. The high acidity just doesn’t compliment any type of chocolate. If bubbles are your thing, try a Champagne Doux, Demi-sec Champagne, or a nice Moscato.
Below are a few suggestions that may prove helpful when going down this road.
Not really chocolate at all, made from coca butter, sugar and milk (no cocoa).
Late Harvest Reislings
All of these lighter, sweet wines work well with white chocolate.
Depending on the percentage of cocoa milk chocolates can be lighter, thus the same wines may work here as with white chocolate.
Pinot Noir (A lighter style, perhaps something from Willamette).
Gamay (a nice cru Beaujolias).
Brachetto d’ Aqui
Milk chocolate being a little heavier than white chocolate pairs extremely well with these lighter style, fruiter red wines.
The purest form of the three and the most bitter. These have the highest percentage of cacao (minimum 35%) the higher.
The intense fruit in ruby port’s and reciotto’s are my favorite things to pair with these big bitter chocolates. Although Amarones are fermented completely dry, they have lots of lush fruit which lend themselves well to big dark chocolates.
CHOCOLATES WITH NUTS OF FRUIT
Vin doux Natutral (A nice Riveasalts)
The caramelized flavors in Vin Santo’s and Tawnt Ports pair perfectly with chocolates that contain a nut element. Since Vin doux Natural’s offer a wide range of flavors from honey, peach, apricot and hazelnut they work extremely well with chocolate’s that are combined with nuts and/or fruit.
Like many things in the world of wine there are guidelines to follow in terms of finding symmetry when pairing but it’s always fun to break the rules and try something different just for a giggle.