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Wine and cheese will always be a classic party combination. But today, wine and chocolate pairings are becoming a very popular combination. One big reason is that the quality of the chocolate has increased as has the variety. Today, you can buy artisan chocolates, find exotic-flavored truffles or create gourmet desserts.

Here are some tips if you want to host a wine and chocolate pairing party.

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TASTE FROM LIGHT TO DARK CHOCOLATE.

Similar to formal wine tasting, if experimenting with several styles of chocolates, work from light white chocolate through milk chocolate and end on the drier notes of dark chocolate.

By starting with the more understated nuances of white chocolate and ending with dark or bittersweet chocolate, you will keep your palate from starting on overdrive and missing out on the subtle sweet sensations found in more delicate chocolate choices with their appropriately paired wines.  

KEEP IT SIMPLE.  

Start with a wine that is slightly sweeter than the chocolate. With both wine and chocolate carrying their own innate intensity, they can often find themselves engaged in a formidable palate power play, each vying for dominance and immediate attention.

Tried and true "sweet" wine options that cover a wide range of chocolate partners include: the fortified favorites of Port, Madeira, and Pedro Ximénez Sherry. Late Harvest wines are great options. So are some sweet sparkling wines like Italy's delicious Brachetto or Moscato d'Asti with lighter selections.

THINK STYLE AND WEIGHT.

Try to match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be.

For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with a big, bold California Zinfandel or even a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more dry, tannin texture it will display. However, when you pair this darker chocolate up with a wine that also boasts stouter tannin structure, the chocolate will often soften, even cancel out the wine's tannin on the palate, and allow more of luscious fruit to show through.  


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WHITE CHOCOLATE

  • Nivole Muscato
  • St Francis Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste Sauternes 2014
  • Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry

With decadent notes that are creamy, rich and buttery, White Chocolate does well with a spritzy Muscato, mouth-filling Muscat or rich Sherry. For contrasting flavors, I recommend a hearty red Zinfandel.


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MILK CHOCOLATE

  • Rodney Strong Merlot
  • Veuve Cliquot Demi Sec
  • Grahams Six Grapes Port
  • Kenwood Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Six Grapes is a classic pairing with Milk Chocolate candy bites and desserts. But Pinot Noir and lighter bodied Merlot works just as well. For another delicious option, try it with a slightly sweet Sparkling Wine like the Veuve Cliquot Demi Sec.


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DARK CHOCOLATE

  • Toad Replace Toad Hollow with Gougenheim Sparkling Malbec Rose N/V
  • Round Pond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin
  • Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Dark Chocolates are robust and demand a wine pairing just as bold. Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect. With its own notes of chocolate you can’t go wrong. A bold, slightly spicy, rich Zin makes a decadent pairing, and a Tawny Port, with its nutty vanilla notes, matches beautifully. Mary the opposite flavor profiles of Dark Chocolates and rich chocolate desserts with the delicate sweetness of a Sparkling Wine like Risque.