It’s the season of love, but cupid can drop the bow. With rieslings, cabs, and merlots filling valentine’s day wishes, it just takes some wine-friendly chocolates to send hearts aflutter. Pairing a fine vintage with a delectable chocolate can be exciting, but the wrong match can displease both refined and unrefined tastebuds. Like anything in life, the key is balance.
Both wine and chocolate contain flavanols, which belong to a family of polyphenolic compounds that have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. That’s science speak for wine and chocolate are both good for you—but these compounds also affect flavor. The more polyphenols in wine or chocolate, the more pronounced the bitter taste. To find a perfect wine-and-chocolate match, you’ll want to make sure both are somewhat similar—same bitterness, smoothness, punch, and body. We break it down right here, taking the guesswork out of what goes with what.
Pairs with: Riesling, Chardonnay, Moscato d’Asti, Sauvignon Blanc
Similarities: White chocolate can come in a variety of forms, but its taste is an overall soft, mellow sweetness with buttery tones. When grabbing a nutty white chocolate, opt for the chardonnay. Its fuller body and buttery finish will enhance the flavors of the chocolate. For a citrusy white chocolate, pair it with a sauvignon blanc. The lightness and acidity of the wine make it an easy palate pleaser. Riesling and Moscato d’Asti are both light, bubbly, and sweet—a white chocolate’s ideal partner.
Pairs with: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot
Similarities: Some might describe the taste of dark chocolate as dry, bitter, strong, or intense. You’ll want to pick a wine with the same powerful punch. Zinfandels, cabs, syrahs, and merlots are all fuller-bodied wines with some fruity undertones. Depending on the cacao content of your dark chocolate, you’ll want to choose a similar-bodied wine for the biggest flavor boost. Zinfandels and syrahs share fruity and spicy notes, so they’ll probably pair better with a semi-sweet dark chocolate. Cabernet sauvignon tends to be bold and strong, which teams well with the drier, not-so-sweet chocolates. Similarly, the richness of merlot wows with a 55% cacao-packed dark chocolate.
Pairs with: Pinot Noir, Port, Riesling, Pinot Gris
Similarities: The creamy sweetness of milk chocolate requires a wine that can hold up to its smooth, silky texture. Try a pinot noir for a light-bodied sweet and tannic complement or a port from Portugal for a fruit-forward tasting experience. White wines, like a Riesling or pinot gris, that are lighter and semi-sweet are also a delight when paired with milk chocolate.
Pairs with: Champagne, Moscato, Brachetto d’Acqui
Similarities: A combination of fresh strawberries and chocolate sends the tastebuds in all different directions of sweet and tangy. You’ll want your chosen wine to have the same bursts of excitement. Reach for bubbly wines, such as Champagne, Moscato, or brachetto d’acqui, to get the most flavor benefits from your pairing. While Moscato and brachetto d’acqui play off the sweetness of the chocolate, the subtleties of Champagne allow the strawberry to take center stage.
Pairs with: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz
Similarities: Whether it’s a thin mint Girl Scout cookie or a peppermint patty, these chocolaty treats offer cool, refreshing bites. Pair a mint chocolate with a wine that’s equally surprising. A bold red like a cabernet sauvignon or cab franc has enough intensity to match the cooling flavors of mint. A shiraz is a medium-bodied wine with earthy notes that happily take a back seat to the chocolate.
Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas
The big day is fast approaching. Grab your wine, chocolate, and gift to celebrate. Don’t worry—we’ve got you! Check out our article for some last-minute gift ideas.