Dining Features

Two Words: Wine and Chocolate

Wine and chocolate is a trend now. Several North Fork wineries have been holding wine and chocolate pairings, but I was skeptical. Wine with chocolate? I didn’t think they went together! We’ll be holding a chocolate tasting at my Bistro this fall, but chocolate only—no wine.

I asked “Chocolate SommelierRoxanne Browning of Exotic Chocolate Tasting to explain the mystique behind wine and chocolate pairings. Involved with chocolate for years, she recently traveled to a cocoa cooperative in Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest to learn chocolate making from the cacao pod to the bar.

According to Browning, wine goes as well with chocolate as it does with cheese, and she claims even the skeptical are quickly converted. Both chocolate and wine are mood enhancers. Wine lovers love the wine angle and chocolate lovers love the chocolate. Everyone’s happy! [expand]

Do some chocolates pair better with white wines and some pair better with red wines? Yes. White wine goes well with white chocolate. The creaminess of white chocolate, which is almost 100% cocoa butter, cuts through the acidity of the white wine. What a revelation! Just like white wine goes well with creamy chevre and other creamy, high-fat cheeses. Like cheese, chocolate has a high fat and butter content.

For a specific pairing with white wine, Browning recommends a white chocolate with bits of cocoa nibs, from the Philippines.

Dark chocolate goes well with red wine. I never would have put the two together, but now I get it. Bitter, dark chocolate, combined with the bitter tannins of red wine. According to Browning, cocoa has tannins. Makes sense! Oak has tannins, grape skins have tannins, nuts have tannins. No wonder chocolate tastes good with nuts! Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds. And the cacao beans, if I’m not mistaken, are roasted, just like coffee beans, and just like the interior of the oak wine barrels are toasted.

You can’t just pair any dark chocolate with any red wine—you need to experiment. But certain guidelines apply. For example, a lighter red wine like a cool-climate Pinot Noir might pair better with a lighter chocolate, such as one with a 63% cocoa content, while a heavier, fuller-bodied red wine like a warm-climate Shiraz might be a better match for a chocolate with 75% cocoa.

As a general rule, the wine should be sweeter than the chocolate. So if the wine is dry, which is the only way I drink my red wines, the chocolate had better be even drier (more bitter, less sweet)!

Each chocolate is different, though, depending on the region, cacao bean variety, the chocolatier and how it’s made. So a 63% chocolate from Madagascar could in some cases be “heavier” than a 70% from Ecuador. There’s an art and a science to it, just like with wine varietals, regions and winemakers.

As I write this article, I recall the first occasion that I had chocolate cooked in a main dish. It was venison with chocolate sauce that Chef Arie cooked at my Bistro for a special customer. While I know that Mexican cuisine uses chocolate (mole) sauces with meats, the idea never appealed to me and I had never tried it before. While skeptical at first, I paired it with one of my reds, a Merlot, I think. The combination of meat, chocolate and red wine was actually pretty good.

Now that I know a little more about chocolate with wine, I’m just about converted, and ready to start eating more chocolate with my wine!


A resident of Manhattan and the North Fork, lawyer/vineyard owner/winemaker/restaurateur Theresa (Tree) Dilworth is the owner of Comtesse Thérèse Vineyard & Bistro in Aquebogue. For more information on the upcoming chocolate tasting, see www.ComtesseTherese.com.

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