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Wine & Chocolate

Pairing to a pinnacle of pleasure
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Wine & ChocolateWine & Chocolate
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Dr. Dieter Simon

In a way it’s odd that it has taken so long to discover how well chocolate and wine go together. The two have, in fact, many similarities with one another. But when true harmony is at stake, only the best of both will do, yet neither should try to outperform the other.

Chocolate with loads of sugar and coconut oil, and sold as a cheap bulk product, is not an intense experience. The same goes for more simplistic wines. To pair properly, the flavors need to communicate with one another. Potential is essential. When both parts seem to be holding back a bit and first hit top form when they come together, then your palette may become witness to a most exciting event.

In the case of white wine, the general rule is the wine should be sweeter; acidity that is too prominent gets in the way of the chocolate. A fantastic combination is a sweet dessert wine together with milk chocolate, particularly one with a lower cocoa content. Less cocoa means less bitter and brings out the sweetness of the chocolate. And even more interesting is a dessert wine aged in small oak barrels. Everything just fits. The sweetness and the caressing touches of vanilla in the wine join the melt-in-your-mouth of a good chocolate – heavenly! Best case would be a wine that has a high sugar content at harvest and professes at least 120g/l residual sugar in the bottle. Beerenauslese and ice wines fulfill these criteria well.

Red wines with lower acidity levels pair well with bittersweet chocolate. The more complex and rich the red wines are, as long as the tannins are not to prominent, the higher the cocoa content and bitterness of the chocolate may be. It is easy to tell if a wine has chocolate-pairing potential; simply taste the wine. Many top-of-the-line red wines often show nuances reminiscent of chocolate themselves. When a hint of licorice and pepper is also detectable, you can be sure that good chocolate will be a great match. Another fantastic pair would be a Pinot Noir Auslese or Beerenauslese dessert wine. Neither wine nor chocolate loses its uniqueness. On the contrary, they feed on each other and surmount as a delicious treat for your taste buds. And when the red wine has spent some time maturing in oak, the ensuing hint of vanilla will perfect the liaison.

Just as wine has a vast array of aromas and flavors, chocolate has over 1000 aromatic substances in it. The quality level depends on its variety and origin, but also on the terrior, the treatment and the processing procedures. Sometimes, in order to lend chocolate a distinctive flavor, certain flavors are added, such as chili, green pepper, truffles or even celery. These interesting enrichments build flavor synapses to the tannins and peppery nuances in red wines and are sometimes reminiscent of leather or the fresh bark of a willow.

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