Wine or chocolate: Why choose? Thanks to the vast number of delicious dessert wines available, there’s no need to. Contrary to popular belief, your go-to bottle of red is probably not the pairing for your favorite sweet treat, but with so many other options out there, you’re sure to find the perfect bottle to accompany your dessert. These are the top tips to keep in mind.
What Is the Most Important Rule for Pairing Wine with Chocolate?
The golden rule for pairing wine with chocolate, and any dessert for that matter, is that the wine should always be sweeter than the treat. If the wine is less sweet, it generally makes the wine taste less-than-great, sour and overly bitter. Keep this one rule in mind and you’ll be on your way to a delicious pairing in no time.
Can I Pair Dry Wines with Chocolate?
For the most part, dry wines don’t go well with chocolate. As per the golden rule above, when it comes to pairing wine and chocolate (or other sweet treats), the former should always be sweeter than the latter. There are a few exceptions that can sometimes work (for instance, Beaujolais or zinfandel), though we recommend erring on the side of caution and going for a bottle of sweet wine instead.
Do Certain Wines Go Better with Milk Chocolate Versus Dark Chocolate?
Kind of! Certain wines will go better with different styles of chocolate (see our at-a-glance guide below), although milk and dark chocolate pairings are more flexible or interchangeable than white chocolate pairings. This is due to the sweetness of the chocolate.
Are Fortified Wines Good with Chocolate?
Absolutely! Fortified wines make some of the best chocolate pairings out there. While many white-grape-based fortified wines (think sweeter sherry styles) are great with both white and darker chocolates alike, we recommend saving red fortified wines (such as port) to drink with milk or dark chocolate.
Which Wines Pair Best with Chocolates That Contain Nuts or Other Fillings?
It depends on the chocolate. We recommend taking the base chocolate (white, milk, or dark) into consideration first, then thinking about the fillings. Don’t forget that coming up with your own creative wine and chocolate pairings can be a blast. Have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on hand? Try pairing it with a sweet sparkling red wine for a PB&J-like experience. Prefer caramel-filled chocolates? Think of wines (tawny port, for example) that exude similar caramel notes for an out-of-this-world pairing. The possibilities are endless!
A Quick Guide
Recommended wines with white chocolate:
Late-harvest riesling or gewurztraminer
Ice wine (eiswein)
Recommended wines with milk chocolate:
Port (ruby or tawny)
Amontillado or oloroso sherry
Recommended wines with dark chocolate:
Vin doux naturels (banyuls/maury)
Pedro Ximenez sherry
Recioto della Valpolicella
Vin santo (Italy)
These are six bottles to try.
Broadbent 10 Year Malmsey Madeira
Madeira often falls in the shadows of its more-popular fortified-wine counterparts, but this bottle will have you reaching for more. As its name suggests, this Madeira is produced from wines that spend a minimum of ten years aging in oak casks (and longer for some components of the blend) prior to release. The resulting wine is full-bodied, rich, and loaded with concentrated flavors of dried figs, caramel, and sugared pecans. Try it with milk chocolate, crème brûlée or apple walnut cake.
Fèlsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008
Can’t get enough of all things Tuscan? Then this delicious well-balanced bottle of vin santo is your perfect chocolate-pairing pick. Prior to vinification, the fruit for vin santo wines is left out to dry, which causes the grapes to raisin (thereby allowing their sugars to concentrate). This beautiful bottle is crafted mostly from trebbiano and malvasia sourced from the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga, located on the southern border of the Chianti Classico zone. Flavors of canned peaches, tropical fruit, dried apricots, and honey lead to a soft and balanced finish. Try it with dark chocolate, biscotti, or pecan pie.
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port
Skeptical about port? This affordable and easy-to-find bottle promises to change your mind. Crafted by one of the region’s most well-known houses, this wine provides the perfect gateway into the world of historic style of wine. Approachable flavors of blackberry, cassis, and sweet spice create a luscious palate-coating mouthfeel. Two years of aging in seasoned oak casks prior to bottling adds to the texture and sweet spiciness of the wine; for less than 20 bucks a pop, we can’t think of a better deal for all things chocolate. Try it with milk chocolate, blueberry pie, or German chocolate cake.
Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling Reserve 2018
Inspired by the great wines of Germany, this producer has been crafting world-class wines (both sweet and dry) in New York’s Finger Lakes region since 1979. This spätlese-like bottling has approximately 54 grams of residual sugar, though truckloads of natural acidity keep the wine balanced, fresh, and lively. Juicy flavors of ripe apple, stone fruit, apricot, and honey dominate the wine’s fruit-driven palate. Unlike our fortified favorites that pack a heftier alcoholic punch, at just 8% to 9% ABV, this wine is perfect for sipping year-round at any time of day. Try it with white chocolate, lemon cream pie, or an apple tart.
La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia Moscato d'Asti
La Spinetta is spearheaded by the ever-talented winemaker Giorgio Rivetti, who began his winemaking ventures with moscato in the 1970s, and today has expanded his trade to crafting fine Barolo and Barbaresco wines as well. This bottle is considered by many to be the world’s first single-vineyard moscato. Fruit for this legendary cuvée comes from 40-year-old vines rooted in calcareous marl soils. Expect bright flavors of honey, stone, fruit, and sage, leading to a light and refreshing finish. Try it with white chocolate, funfetti cake, or peach cobbler.
Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado
Valdepsino’s long-standing roots date back to 1264, rendering it one of the most historic and legendary houses in all of Jerez. Today, the estate is known for its cask fermentations and extensive aging regimens, much of which surpass the legal limits. This impressive eight-year-aged bottle shows layered flavors of sappy dates, citrus, chocolate, and molasses. Should you have a pint of vanilla ice cream on hand, we recommend drizzling some of this delectable wine over a scoop for an out-of-this-world experience—accompanied by a side of chocolate, of course. Try it with dark chocolate, tiramisu, or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.