kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

703.203.9463

Rethinking red wine and chocolate

Chefs pair them on expensive tasting menus. Wine educators use them in wine tastings and classes to demonstrate food and wine pairing. Wineries serve them as part of multi-course wine dinners. But do red wine and chocolate really work together, or are they just a kitschy forced pairing?

In my tasting experience, I've found that chocolate CAN pair with red wine, but with the following guidelines. Give them a try, see if you agree with them, and then try your own pairings:

* Pair milk chocolate with a New World, jammy merlot. The chocolate really works with the blackberry flavors in the wine.

* The higher the fat content in the chocolate, the more tannic wine it will pair with--the fat in the chocolate will soften the wine's tannins. (This also explains why we enjoy steak with tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon--the fat in the meat softens the tannins.) So, reach for some quality chocolate (Vahlrona, Lindt's, Godiva), instead of a Hershey bar, to enjoy with a glass of red wine.

* Pair dark, bitter chocolate with an Old World, more restrained wine like Bordeaux. The coffee aromas and flavors of the wine will go with the bitter chocolate better than a fruitier wine.

* What about white chocolate? I've never been a fan of this type of candy, which to me isn't chocolate at all. I definitely think that red wine won't work with it. I'd stick to a Brut Champagne.