Perfect Pairings

Denise and Andrew McCreey Share How to Make Chocolate and Wine a Match Made in Heaven

Fred and Ginger, hugs and kisses, wine and chocolate…some things just naturally go together! When we think of decadence or special occasions, we frequently think of chocolate and wine, a food and drink combination that beckons to the gourmand in all of us.

Experts agree, however, that chocolate with wine is not in fact a natural pairing, and can easily bring out the worst in each product.  “Most everyone likes red wine and chocolate, but that doesn’t mean they dance well together,” says Andrew McCreery, Certified Wine Educator and Sommelier for d’Vine Gourmet, a local wine and gourmet food shop. “It’s a tricky combination that when done well, is a delight for the senses and very enjoyable; but when paired incorrectly, it can have disastrous results.”

So how do you pair the two together correctly? “Practice makes perfect!” quips Denise McCreery, owner of d’Vine Gourmet and not-so-expert chocolate maker.  “I love both wine and chocolate, and will pair any combo together just for fun, but sometimes it fails.”  The following guide should help answer this tasty conundrum.

Red Wine

“First and foremost, stay away from the dry reds when enjoying chocolate, they almost never work regardless of the type of chocolate you are eating,” says Andrew.  “You’ll need a wine with, at the very least, a hint of sweetness to counter balance the acidity and tannins of the wine.” So rather than a dry Cabernet Sauvigon or Chianti, try a California Merlot or Australian Shiraz. “These varietals are a bit juicier and complement the cocoa butter nicely, particularly with milk or white chocolates, creamed filled truffles and chocolate caramels.”  When eating super sweet chocolates, a bold red that’s not quite as sweet will pair nicely.  Think molten lava cake with a Pinot Noir…yum!

White Wine

This one can be trickier due to the acidity and citrus flavors more common in white wines. Again, we’re looking for something with a hint of sweetness to counterbalance.  “We have a white chocolate cherry bark that is amazing with a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, but didn’t work at all with Chardonnay!” says Denise, who is now experimenting with making chocolate treats specifically for wine pairing.  That’s because traditional Chardonnays have a buttery finish that competes with the softness of white chocolate, where a more crisp wine will give it that counterbalance. “One of my all time favorites is white chocolate cheesecake and Riesling, decadent yet refreshing!” says Denise.

Champagne

It’s a classic combo for a reason…the dry yet slightly sweet bubbles act both with and against almost every chocolate dessert out there, including chocolate covered strawberries. “I think Champagne or almost any sparkling wine works well with chocolate because of the wine’s ability to clean the palate,” says Andrew, who has first hand experience with wineries in the Champagne region of France.  “Chocolate can take over the mouth with its cocoa butter, sugar and slow melting appeal. Champagne comes along and sweeps it all away, leaving a nice after taste and preparing your mouth for the next bite…it’s my favorite pairing of them all.”

About Denise and Andrew McCreery

Andrew has spent his entire career in the wine business and has traveled the world working with wine makers and distributors to perfect his craft and knowledge base. Denise, a self taught gourmet cook and candy maker, started d’Vine Gourmet in 2003 by turning some of Andrew’s wine into jam and selling it at farmer’s markets.  d’Vine Gourmet is now a full service gourmet good, wine and gift basket shop located in the Promenade at Fulton Ranch, and is open seven days a week. DVineGourmet.com