Among the heinous acts perpetrated by humans, pairing dry red wine with chocolate doesn’t even rank. But, in the context of the tiny crimes that wine drinkers commit daily – like pouring Sprite into their Pinot Gris or chilling their Riesling to arctic temperatures – this is an issue that warrants our speaking up. We won’t be occupying or camping out; just saying our piece about man’s inhumanity to wine. Then we’ll be moving on.
One of the basic tenets of food and wine pairing is that you consider the sweetness level of both the food and the wine. Matching them is necessary if you don’t want to needlessly accentuate the dryness of the one with the smaller sugar load. In the case of red wine and chocolate, this is a consideration that seems to be largely ignored. Taking into account the sheer volume of red-wine-and-chocolate recommendations online (google it!), it is clear that this one now has a mind of it’s own.
We Did Our Own Tasting/Research
For the sake of argument, we decided to undertake a small bit of research, choosing three chocolates and three red wines and putting them to the test. We don’t have any illusions as to the power of this research to change the minds of those perpetuating this unfortunate myth. But, if we can save one palate from the confusing mess that is wine and chocolate, we’ll consider it worth our while.
We started by laying out our chocolate:
1.) milk chocolate
2. 45% cacao ‘medium-bitter’
3.) 75% cacao, ‘dark and bitter’
The wine was next:
1.) 2009 Oregon Pinot Noir
2.) 2010 California Cabernet Sauvignon
3.) 2008 Cotes du Rhone
We started with the sweetest wine and the least-sweet chocolate: the Cabernet and the dark chocolate. I have to say that I kept an open mind about this one. If there is any territory that might provide something close to a solid match, it is a ripe red wine and a bitter, dark chocolate. To illustrate just how mismatched these two objects in fact were, even the darkest chocolate was so much sweeter than the ripe Cabernet that it caused what little tannin was in the wine to pull to the front, creating an unpleasant drying effect.
At this point, with our mouths a sour brown bayou, we pledged to power on. A quick rinse with water and we moved to the Cotes du Rhone, intending to pair it with all three chocolates. This time we started with the milk chocolate, the sweetest of the chocolates (and seemingly the most commonly paired chocolate with red wine). Whoa. Our mouths didn’t even get out of first gear with this one. How could radish possibly come to mind when pairing chocolate and red wine? The flavors were so mismatched and the sweetness levels so far apart that it seemed like a cruel joke.
After the wormhole of incongruous and violently unpleasant flavors, we had no choice but to call it a day. Even the wine police will only go so far to prove a point. If the goal in wine pairing is to enhance the two combined elements, chocolate and red wine just don’t work. (Don’t even get us started about this Choco-Wine stuff!)
Sweet Red Wine (Port & Dessert) Works!
We do have one suggestion: if you want to successfully explore this one, you’ll need to choose a red wine with comparable sweetness. It is not novel or new, but Port works fabulously with a range of chocolates, depending on exactly how sweet the wine is (Port producers tend to have a house style that includes considerations of sweetness).
Now, please dispense of those chocolate and wine fantasies. They belong in the same rubbish heap as your whipped cream, edible undies and the rose-petal strewn duvet. You can keep the candles though.