Wine and chocolate already have powerful appeal on an individual basis, but put them together and you’re in for one indulgent pairing. But it’s not as simple as grabbing a pretty-labeled bottle off the shelf and blindly shoving chocolate kisses in your mouth.
“Pairing wine with sweets can be a challenge,” says Jeff Porter, certified sommelier and host of the upcoming video series Sip Trip. First off, there’s a bunch of sugar everywhere; second, everyone’s go-to ‘match’ of big Cabernets and chocolate is actually kind of a miss, since the wine’s bitter tannins tend to suffocate the chocolate.
“When pairing desserts [with wine], I try to keep the sweetness levels somewhat in line,” Porter says, “but moreso, I look for flavors that work together. I think of all the awesome candy bars I’ve had as a kid and try to recreate some of those flavor synergies with wine and chocolate.” Take a Snickers bar with its nuts, caramel, and chocolate — you might look for a wine with nuttiness and caramel notes to complement the chocolate.
With Valentine’s Day looming, we’ve got you covered with eight swoon-worthy wine and chocolate pairings (plus one bonus beer pairing).
Zenato Cormí Merlot Corvina delle Venezie IGT 2013 ($23)
Pair with: Dark or milk chocolate candy
Hailing from Italy’s Valpolicella region, this full-bodied red is 50%
Mumm Napa Brut Rosé ($24)
Pair with: Milk chocolate-covered strawberries
With roots leading back to international French Champagne house G.H. Mumm, Mumm Napa certainly knows how to do sophisticated sparkling wine — which always feels more celebratory. This rosé brut is created, naturally, using Champagne’s Traditional Method and 18 months yeast aging. While chardonnay (20%) can take credit for its structure and poise, pinot noir (80%) delivers the pink coral color, soft texture, and bold red fruit flavors — all that makes for a seductive match with the sweetness of milk chocolate covered strawberries.
The Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel ($21.99)
Pair with: Dark chocolate covered caramel with sea salt
This California blend of
Marques de Murrieta Capellanía White Reserva 2014 ($30)
Pair with: White chocolate-dipped oranges
This white from Rioja, Spain, was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, then briefly fermented in stainless steel — the outcome is a wine as complex as your relationship status. Take a sip and bask in the mouth-coating richness, which plays well with the extra-sweet cocoa butter in white chocolate. Next, take a bite — the wine’s lingering, subtle flavors of coconut, candied citrus, and cinnamon swirl together with the chocolate-soaked orange. Now, take another sip… and repeat until it’s all gone.
Santa Julia Tintillo 2018 ($13)
Pair with: Creamy chocolate mousse
The Mendoza region of Argentina is renowned for their spectacular malbecs. Here’s a medium-bodied 50/50 blend of malbec and Bonarda grapes that showcases juicy fruit flavors (strawberries, cherries, raspberries), bright acidity, and a noticeable lack of tannins. When served slightly chilled with V-day dessert, the wine’s easy-drinking character makes a sultry combo with silky chocolate mousse (especially if bae is spoon-feeding it to you).
Rocca di Montemassi Renaissance Rosé 2017 ($16.99)
Pair with: Semi-sweet and spicy dark chocolate
It’s Valentine’s Day: Time to accept that rosé is a year-round sip, think pink, and turn up the heat! This elegant rosé from Tuscany is a delicate blend of sangiovese (60%) and syrah (40%) that’s sure to unveil that love is not lost on you. The wine lures you in with ripe fruit flavors and fresh floral aromas, then delivers a burst of spice at the finish (from the syrah). If you’re feeling flirty, this balanced pink wine lends itself to adventure — like glugging a glass between zippy nibbles of semi-sweet dark chocolate infused with chili pepper.
BERA Brachetto Piemonte DOC 2016 ($18)
Pair with: Chocolate peanut butter fudge
Maybe you’re spending Valentine’s Day with your lover by candlelight; or maybe you’re sweatpants-clad with your best friends and trashing your exes. Either way, you’ve met your sipping match with a red frizzante (semi-sparkling). This rich, medium-sweet wine is made with 100% brachetto grapes (grown predominantly in the Piedmont region) and is bursting with tastes of sweet plums and red cherries. And what better to pair with these jammy flavors than a square of chocolate peanut butter fudge? The answer is five squares of chocolate peanut butter fudge.
Kendall-Jackson 2017 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay ($17)
Pair with: Chocolate-drizzled popcorn balls
Buttery chardonnay is style that’s quintessentially Napa Valley; the wine’s rich toastiness and long-lasting finish come from putting the grapes through a secondary (malolactic) fermentation to soften the acidity and round out the flavors. This popular bottle of chardonnay is vibrant, complex, and, of course, buttery, making it exceptionally food-friendly. Bust out the chocolate-drizzled popcorn balls (ideally sprinkled with red and pink M&Ms) and it’s truly a match made in heaven.
Bonus Beer!: Sapporo Premium Black ($3.99/can)
Pair with: Chocolate hazelnut truffles
You are correct: This is not a wine. But in the event your date is a chocolate-loving beer connoisseur, it’s important to tend to his/her inner desires on a Hallmark holiday. When you think of dark beer, you likely imagine heavy stouts and porters (say, Guinness), but this is a flavorful lager that drinks light — and leaves room for dessert. It has