Wine and chocolate pairing – yes, it can be done

Whenever a chocolate-related holiday comes along, the internet is awash with suggestions that we should try to pair our chocolate treats with a nice glass of wine.

It’s a noble suggestion. We eat a lot of chocolate in this country. Various studies in the past decade have placed the UK at or near the top of per-capita chocolate consumption in the Europe, showing each person devours anywhere from 9 kg or more per annum.

That’s a lot for a country that isn’t even famous for its chocolate (although some of the most famous chocolate manufacturers in the world, such as Cadbury’s and Fry’s, are British).

And since it comes as no surprise that the British enjoy their alcohol, particularly wine, matching these two favourite vices is only natural.

Except for one problem. Chocolate and wine aren’t the easiest things to pair – at least it doesn’t seem that way. Dry wine is out of the question here unless a very dark, bitter chocolate is being paired with a full-bodied Bordeaux or something equally structured. Alternatively, a full-bodied Shiraz that has spicy, peppery aromas, can make a nice match for the brooding flavours of dark chocolate.

So what goes well with chocolate? Not your typical wines, I’m afraid, so you’re going to have to go off the beaten path here and try something new.

Vins doux naturels

These wines are made by adding – yes adding – alcohol to stop the fermentation process, meaning there is more residual sugar in them and, in turn, more natural grape flavours. Typically these wines are known as Maury or Banyuls and come from the south of France and most often made from the grenache grape. Around the 16% alcohol region, they are close to Port but not as heavy and certainly a lot cheaper because they are not nearly as well-known or popular.

One to try:

Waitrose Seriously Plummy Grande Réserve NV Maury, Roussillon, South of France (£9.77, Waitrose)

Moscatel

Another route to try is moscatel with its rich flavours and notes of citrus and marmalade. This is a dessert wine that will be heavy on the sweetness and have all sorts of floral aromas.

One to try:

Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro (£8.89, Ocado)

Moscato

Another option here is to go for the slightly fizzy moscato wine. The right one will have a good balance of creaminess and fruit flavours to match the chocolate.

One to try:

Brown Brothers Moscato (£6.49, Tesco)

Sherry and Madeira

Creamy sherries and sweet Madeira could be a good match for chocolate, particularly rich and sweet chocolate cakes and puddings. A Palo Cortado sherry is somewhere between the rich oloroso and the crispness of an amontillado, so it won’t be too sweet or too dry. However, it might be worth going all-out for a Pedro Ximenez if you have a sweeter tooth.

One to try:

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 12-Year-Old Pedro Ximenez (£7.99, Sainsbury’s)

Other options:

In addition to the above, you might also want to try an Amarone, one of the richest and biggest of the Italian wines, which is made by pressing grapes that have been dried to the point of becoming raisins. Malbec and zinfandel, too, can be good friends of chocolate for their full flavours and fruit content, although be sure not to choose to sweet a chocolate to go with them.

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