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Perfect Pairings: Wine and a Surprising Type of Chocolate

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This will hurt some people’s feelings, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: dark chocolate does not pair well with wine. After a meal, nothing is classier than setting out some dark chocolate alongside a glass of 20 year-old tawny port. But the fact is that the dark chocolate and the wine do not make a perfect pairing. They can certainly be served alongside each other, but they don’t work together. The port will mute the flavors of the chocolate, and the wine will not be enhanced by the pairing.

This seems odd since the general rule for pairing wine and dessert is to serve a wine that is at least as sweet as the dish it accompanies, and a great deal of wine is sweeter than dark chocolate, particularly if the chocolate has a high cocoa content. And yet, when dessert wines (port, sherry, or other sweet wine) are served with dark chocolate, there is just no magic. Fine dark chocolate sometimes presents a plastic consistency and a flat flavor after a sip of dessert wine.

So sad, but all is not lost. Here’s what I recommend: Milk chocolate pairs far more effectively with wine. The creaminess of the milk chocolate resulting from the inclusion of milk solids (along with the cocoa solids and cocoa butter) make for a far better match. That port which actually detracted from the experience of dark chocolate starts to shine when enjoyed with good milk chocolate.

To take that a step further, white chocolate pairs with dessert wines better than either dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Many people poo poo white chocolate, saying it isn’t actually chocolate since it contains no cocoa solids. That may be true, but it actually makes a perfect pairing when tasted with wine: both the wine and the chocolate become more enjoyable when sampled together. Try it and see. Get some friends together and buy some dark, milk, and white chocolate. Then try them with some of the following wines:

• Tawny Port
• Banfi Rosa Regale
• Pedro Ximenez Sherry
• Malmsey Madeira
• Banyuls

Paired with these wines, you’ll likely find that white chocolate responds by offering a range of new flavors that are an unexpected pleasure to experience. Many dessert wines advertise on the bottle that they pair well with dark chocolate so as to appeal to people with the refinement to avoid milk and white chocolate, but try it for yourself. You could be driven to admit that there is a place for white chocolate after all.

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Robert Lublin

Robert Lublin teaches whisk(e)y and wine appreciation classes for Arlington Community Education, near Boston, MA. He is also a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has published books and articles on Shakespeare as well as theatre and film history.

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