Wine and chocolate sound like a great idea because they both have intense, complex aromatic profiles. Unfortunately, this can be too much of a good thing where the pairing doesn’t resonate on the palate because of the similarities. Polyphenols in wine and chocolate also affect the pairing. Scientifically, polyphenols are the components within wine and chocolate that make them beneficial — anti-inflammatory, for instance. Yet polyphenols are responsible for giving dark chocolates their bitter notes and for giving wines their tannic notes. Here are some tips for successful wine & chocolate pairings:
For your first pairing session, start with three or four different wines and chocolates. Any more than this, and you’ll confuse the flavors.
A wine will need to ‘breathe’ for some time before you smell it so that its aromas and flavors can develop. Open each bottle an hour before your pairing session for this purpose.
To make things easier, avoid smoking a few hours before a pairing, and don’t wear any perfume. This will help you begin the session with a clear head.
Depending on the characteristics of the wines and chocolates present, you can pair for similarity or contrast. For example, a 36% white caramel and salt chocolate would echo the toffee notes in a white, late harvest wine. On the other hand, berry notes in a Pinot Noir could be contrasted with a 77% cranberry.
When beginning your tasting, first taste and describe the chocolate, then the wine, and then both together. Next, start with the wine, then the chocolate, and then both together again. Finally, mix the two by waiting for the chocolate to melt on your tongue, and then swirling a little wine in your mouth. With this method, you can see what each one has to offer, individually and as part of a pair.
Now you are ready for a successful tasting experience!