Guilty Pleasures: How To Pair Wine & Chocolate

chocolate and wine

It’s no mystery that wine is made through the fermentation of grapes. But, did you know that chocolate is also fermented with the same complex yeasts as wine? This can make pairing wine and chocolate tricky since both are sweet, fruity, bitter and acidic. Not to worry, we're here to arm you with the information you need to find delicious pairings for all of your favorites.

First, if you're faced with a dessert smorgasbord (such a nightmare!) start with white chocolates and work your way into dark as the flavors will intensify along the way. The wine you select must be perceived as sweeter than the chocolate you choose. Since chocolate coats your mouth when you eat it, you’ll need a wine that’s big enough to cut through its richness. Try looking for flavors in both that are similar to one another. Start by tasting the wine and then biting into the chocolate.

White Chocolates

Guess what? This isn’t actually chocolate, folks! White chocolate is made from cocoa fat, or cocoa butter but does not contain any actual cocoa. It’s subtle in character but heavy on the sweet, creamy and buttery notes. When it comes to wine pairings, you can take a couple different routes.

Sparkling wines and champagne tend to pair very well with white chocolate. But, make sure to choose varietals with body, color and sweetness. Demi sec champagne is a good place to start. Moscato d’Asti is another sparkling alternative that has rich depth and enough viscosity to stand up to sweet white chocolate. Also, sparkling rose is a perfect companion for white chocolate due to the rich complexity from the tannin.

On the other hand, you could try a nice bottle of white port. This is a dessert wine with the austerity of a sherry and the smooth seduction of a port without the ruby color.

At George’s, here are some wines we carry and recommend with white chocolate: Billecart Salmon demi sec Champagne France, Vietti Moscato d’Asti Piedmont Italy, Graham Beck Brut Rose South Africa, Fonseca White Port


Milk Chocolate

This type of chocolate tends to have a creamy texture, a slight roasted cocoa flavor with sweet caramel and aromatic hints on the palate. Milk chocolate tends to be on the sweeter side and calls for pairings with a similar sugar content.

A ruby port is an excellent choice with its rich and sweet characteristics which play nicely with the tones of milk chocolate. For a more interesting pairing, choose a sweet sherry such as a Pedro Ximenez (PX) or Cream sherry. These wines offer an oxidative austere quality that creates a unique pairing. You could also try a premium Irish cream for a fun flavor combination. Our California Modern mixologist, Stephen Kurpinsky even makes his own house made batch of Irish cream that's decadent beyond words (it's a must-try during your next visit to the restaurant).

At George’s, here are some wines we carry and recommend with milk chocolate: Taylor Fladgate LBV Ruby Port, Lustau East India Sherry


Semi-Sweet and Dark Chocolate

The most commonly known chocolate! Semi-sweet chocolate contains about 50% to 70% cacao and is the sweetest of the dark chocolates with tones that are nutty, spicy or earthy. It has a balanced and less sweet aftertaste than milk or white chocolate.

Dark chocolate on the other hand is the richest and most intensely flavored of the chocolates. It contains the least amount of sugar and the greatest amount of cacao—anywhere from 71% to 100%. On top of being bitter, dark chocolate carries notes of roasted cocoa, sourness and mild fruit.

For both semi-sweet and dark chocolate, you can dive into wines that are a touch dryer and have more intense tannin quality. A well-aged tawny port makes an excellent choice with a balanced residual sugar content and tannin mouth feel that accompanies the bitterness of the high cocoa levels. The key to the pairing with tawny port is that the rich flavors have mellowed out in the wine, which allow the nuances of the chocolate to shine through.

At George’s, we high recommend the Taylor Fladgate 20yr Tawny for semi-sweet and dark chocolate pairings. It's delicious and the perfect choice.

Looking for more recommendations? Join us for dinner at California Modern where we have 200 wine selections from around the world available and can pair each and every course with the perfect varitetal of your choosing. Cheers!