With Easter Day around the corner, thoughts naturally turn to eggs, bunnies and really anything with chocolate in the title. Face-stuffing is an accepted ritual of the day, and chocolate is widely regarded as the indulgence of choice to enable said gorging.
There is a myth that chocolate and wine don’t pair well together. Sure, it can have pronounced flavours with a tendency to overpower, but if you think clever and get the balance right, it can also be the money-match made in heaven.
Like olive oil, cheese, coffee and of course wine, chocolate has now become the territory of connoisseurs. Precise percentages of cocoa beans, their provenance and exact make-up of their ganache have brought new sophistication to the subject.
As a rule of thumb, one of the best ways of thinking about the ‘art’ of pairing is to imagine the fruits that go well with chocolate. Either match your wine to the notes in the chocolate itself, or look for contrasts. Just remember it always comes down to personal preference in the end, some people like a fruity Cabernet with theirs, others find it too dry.
As a guide, when it comes to white chocolate, try light, frothy wines with floral notes, such as Prosecco or a fun and frothy wine we haven’t seen since the ‘70s, Asti Spumanti. Made from the Muscat grape, its apricot and white peach notes combine with the vanilla-laden white choc like a chord from Beethoven’s 5th.
The creamy flavours in milk chocolate call for something equally rich, in the form of Hungarian Tokaji or a nutty Tawny Port. If the chocolate is caramel-filled, look to pair it with something equally buttery such as a Californian Chardonnay. For a nutty agenda, give a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon a whirl or bust out an almond-stashed Pedro Ximenez Sherry.
When it comes to dark chocolate, we only have to look at Terry’s Chocolate Orange to see that Citrussy orange is a classic match, and one that is reflected in an unctuous Spanish dessert wine made from Muscat.
The turbo-charged intensity of chocolate with a Cacao content of 70% or over is gasping for a gutsy red made from Grenache, Malbec or Shiraz. Brawny tannins are taken care of by the silkiness of the cocoa butter, which smooths out any dryness and allows the flavours some well-earned snuggle-time.
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink and appears regularly as a wine expert on TV and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven.