Chocolate and wine

Those who think that red wine and chocolate are a good match may not need to read any further. Drink, eat and enjoy. But if you can’t seem to find just the right wine to serve alongside your volcano cake, or one to enjoy with your box of gourmet chocolates, know that you are not alone. Wine experts agree that pairing chocolate with wine is a challenge.

To decide which wine to serve with your chocolate cake, chocolate pie or any other homemade chocolate dessert, first decide what kind and percentage of chocolate you intend to use.

Next, consider how big of a chocolate punch your dessert will deliver, then lastly, how sweet it will be. The wine should be slightly sweeter than the dessert. The flavors in the wine should mirror one or more flavors in the dessert, except for tannins. It’s never good to pit tannins against tannins.

Best bet for rich chocolate desserts: Banyuls or a ruby port with enough fruit to pick up on the fruit in your chocolate.

Best bet for milk chocolate desserts: Vin Santo, orange muscat or tawny port, something sweet and smooth, without edgy tannins to detract from the dessert.

Perfect pairs: For those who love the idea of pairing dessert and wine but don’t have the energy to figure out what goes with what, here’s a cheat-sheet.

  • Cheesecake: Orange or black muscat, Sauternes, riesling.
  • Coconut: Ice wine, riesling, viognier.
  • Ice cream: Muscat, black or orange, cream sherry with vanilla ice cream.
  • Puddings and custards: Muscat, ice wine, Madeira.
  • Doughnuts: Asti, Champagne.
  • Figs: Tawny port, Madeira.
  • Fruit tarts and the like: Ice wine, riesling, Sauternes.
  • Nuts: Tawny port, sweet cream sherry, especially Oloroso.
  • Oranges: Champagne, muscat wine.
  • Oreos: Banyuls.
  • Caramel: Tawny port, Madeira, muscat.
  • Wedding cake: Asti, moscato d’asti, German riesling.
  • Bread pudding: Late harvest wine, Sauternes, riesling.

Those who have a bottle of sweet wine kicking around because they never know when to serve it will be happy to hear that the wine, no matter how old, is likely still good. Sweet wines age very well. Here is a backwards cheat-sheet, what to eat with what you want to drink, to help you enjoy those forgotten bottles to their fullest.

  • Muscat wine: fruit, fresh, or dried; biscotti, panna cotta, ice cream, dark chocolate dessert, very creamy desserts.
  • Late harvest wine: fruit and nut desserts, blue cheese, pound cake.
  • Unless it is late harvest zinfandel, do not serve with chocolate.
  • Ice wine: Cookies, especially shortbread, creme brulee or flan, poached fruit, lemon desserts, peach desserts, macadamia nuts.
  • Late harvest riesling: Apples and apple desserts, apricot desserts, bread pudding, peach desserts, crepes, creme brulee, cookies.
  • Sherry, Oloroso: Nuts, pie.
  • Sherry, PX: Chocolate and chocolate desserts, ice cream, nut desserts, pecan pie, pumpkin pie.
  • Ruby port: Cherry desserts, berry desserts.
  • Tawny, vintage and other barrel-aged ports: Almond desserts, apple desserts, dried fruit desserts, pear desserts, chocolate, nuts, walnuts.
  • Banyuls: Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.