If you’ve ever had a piece of chocolate after dinner while finishing your glass of wine, you’re not alone. The pairing of chocolate and wine is a natural fit—both can be luxurious indulgences, and both have various levels of sweetness, leading to a complementary tasting experience. To that end, several East End wineries offer chocolate and wine pairings, including Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Sparkling Pointe.
“Wine and chocolate can have a complex relationship,” says Sparkling Pointe Direct-to-Consumer Sales Manager Melissa Rockwell. “There are pairings that work beautifully and others that completely clash. It is very important that you consider the sweetness and tannin profile in both the wine and the chocolate you are pairing together. I generally tend to abide by the ‘rule’—your wine should be sweeter than your dessert. However, chocolates with ancillary flavors such as saltiness, nuts or fruits open up a world of pairing options.”
Sparkling Pointe’s pairings focus on chocolates that have unique flavors that bring out the most in both the wine and chocolate. Tannin is not an issue for bubbly wines, but for the drier wines, Rockwell says, “We look for mostly milk or white chocolates with added salt, savory or fruity flavors so as not to overwhelm the wine, and instead complement its own flavor profile.” Sparkling Pointe partners with Chicago-based Vosges Haut-Chocolat for their pairings. “My current favorite standout is a milk chocolate flavored with turmeric, ginger and coconut paired with our Sparkling Rosé wines,” says Rockwell.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard Tasting Room Manager David Chinn worked with Long Island–based Katya Witthuhn of Bluebird Chocolates to create pairings. “Katya is in the process from start to finish,” Chinn explains. “She’ll bring chocolates by and brainstorm a few different flavor profiles. I’ll taste wine with her and see what works together. It really is mostly a trial-and-error process, but once you get a set mindset, you figure out things like dark chocolate goes with a more fruit-forward red wine or a white wine with more unique flavor or Chardonnay, which is a little buttery.” Chinn notes that Witthuhn makes her chocolates “not only approachable but beautiful. She does one that has an avocado ganache in the middle. One we’ve featured for quite a while is a raspberry shortcake with goat cheese and a raspberry filling and white chocolate with beautiful artwork.”
Chinn’s personal favorite is a jalapeño chocolate. “It has almost a little bite, but it’s not spicy. It creates a unique flavor, and trying to navigate the wine pairing was a fun process.” Guest response to the pairings has been hugely positive. “Going fully sweet-forward and having these beautiful chocolates and having people taste the wine and see what pairings work has been great. People always want something a little sweet to eat after having wine and cheese, and having that pairing has been a great way to do that. Wine and food is always fun to be experimental with. Why not try a little bit of everything?”