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Chocolate & Wine Tasting

O.K. hounds, I need some educated advice. I want advice from experience not guesses. I'm putting on a chocolate & wine tasting. Serving 70% Dark, 55% Dark, 30% Milk & White Chocolate. Should I serve dark to white or white to dark? I'll just be sampling medallions of each.

As far as wine goes. I'm looking at Cab & Shiraz w/70%, Nero D'Avola & Monastrell/Syrah w/55%, Moscato w/White, but what to do with milk? I'm debating between tawny port & sparkling Aussie shiraz (a sweet one). Any favorite combos "speaking from experience"?

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  1. Chocolate and red table wine tastes terrible to me. I vastly prefer it with fortified, bourbon, coffee, etc. Really, anything other than red table wine. The two bring out the worst in each other.

    5 Replies
    1. re: invinotheresverde


      Most chocolate isn't dark enough to work with red wine pairing. The problem is sugar -- so much sugar is added to chocolate less than 70% cacao that it makes red wine taste sour. Sorry.

      What will work is to pair the chocolate with a wine sweeter than the chocolate. My favorite is Malmsey Madeira (Malmsey is an indication of sweetness; see the Madeira thread listed below -- my favorite brand is Henriques & Henriques). The flavors are stunning; the texture is voluptuous. http://www.cellartracker.com/list.asp...

      Or, try a 100% Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry -- my favorite is a knockout, Venerable by Domecq -- http://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp....

      Those two recs are the very best I've ever had with chocolate, or artisan chocolates, and I admit to much time doing field research.

      20-year-old tawny (or older) is also a good option. Or vintage or LBV port.

      This subject has come up many times before on this board. Here are some previous threads:

      Wine & chocolate pairing(s)?????
      Madeira under a $100

      And check out the many port recommendations by searching this board (all years), especially the posts by Bill Hunt and zin1953.

      1. re: maria lorraine

        I agree with you that most chocolate isn't dark enough to work with (most) red wines, but there are very dark chocolates (usually 80% and above) that work for me with fruit-forward zins. Also, late-harvest zins are sweet enough to work really well with a lot of chocolate (which also agrees with what you said).

        1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

          Yep. The pairing works adequately with 80+% cacao choc and fruit-forward, complex reds (usually $$). Late-harvest zins are like port in character so they work with bittersweet choc. But Iowaboy3's sweeter chocolates need something other than red wine.

          Along the lines of what Tripeler said, I did have a great pairing of a Butterfinger bar and Guinness stout once!

          1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

            I find some joy with the higher concentration chocolates and a nice Merlot, especially if raspberries are any where near.

            Banyuls can also work nicely, and I have enjoyed some with milk chocolates. Obviously, we are now in the realm of dessert wines, but there should not be anything wrong with that.

            Enjoy, and do take a look at ML's links, as there has been some really good discussions on this (or very similar) subject.


        2. re: invinotheresverde

          Agreed . . . it's probably my *least* favorite match . . . .

        3. Iowaboy3: I occasionally enjoy chocolate with unfortified wines. Unfortunately, choosing your chocolate by cacao content is a little like choosing your wine solely by ABV.

          I encourage you to visit brixchocolate.com before the naysayers talk you out of your tasting. I have had only their Medium-Dark (60%) Ghanaian (which strangely seems not to be offered for sale on their website), which they recommend be paired with Zin, Syrah, Rhone, Merlot and Shiraz. It is excellent chocolate in its own right.

          You should also check out http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/578592

          1 Reply
          1. re: kaleokahu

            You make a great point. Doing much of anything "by the numbers" will end up being less satisfying. If it was only about numbers, then every wine would be the same, and score 100 on every vintage. It would also be made by computer.

            I would also NOT give up on the tasting. Even if everyone does not think that every pairing is perfect, it should give them an opportunity to taste and determine for themselves.

            We do a lot of chef's tastings w/ sommelier's pairings. We try to hold onto most wines, and sample them with the other dishes - obviously, this often negates going backward to food dishes, with later wines, but still, we experiment. Some surprising pairings can be found. We try to make note of these. This activity is NOT to try and outguess the sommelier, but to give us many wines to taste with many dishes. Over the holidays, we had 14 glasses each at Restaurant Daniel. The staff was very glad that they had seated us at a very large 4-top!

            We often do tastings for say Port, and then work to come up with food pairings that will work with Rubies to older VP's. Even with extensive tastings beforehand, some folk just do not see the pairing, but have learned in the process.

            Hey, give me an evening of good wine, good food, some good conversation and learning, and life does not get much better.



          2. I think chocolate works a WHOLE lot better with dark beers having minimal bitterness.

            2 Replies
              1. re: Tripeler

                Now, you will get little argument from me.

                My wife does a fabulous flourless chocolate torte, and I often pair it with Samuel Smith's or Young's chocolate ales. Some of my wino guests are surprised, "Hey Hunt, this wine has a head on it." Usually, however, they beg for my wife's recipe, and the name of that particular ale, Porter or stout.


              2. I've done a number of tastings--but all with dark choc. The winning wine with most darks has been late harvest zins

                1. One of the classic pairings is chocolate with Banyuls, preferably Dr Parce Domaine du Mas blanc. With a dark beer, sounds way better as a Dogfish raison d'extra or raison d'etre.

                  1. In general, I don't like red wines with chocolate.

                    However, the sparkling red from Piedmont, Brachetto d'Acqui works with very dark chocolate. I serve it when I serve my Chocolate Terrine, and it's definitely a match.

                    Milk or white chocolate will make any wine taste ultra bitter. no match there at all.

                    1. The very dark Rochefort 10 Trappist ale really tastes a lot like liquid chocolate brownie. There is no chocolate in the beer, though.

                      1. I like Merlot with chocolate. Merlot also goes well with almond paste, such as marzipan. I don't know about white chocolate . That is totally different. Maybe a white wine that has nutty and/or pineappley characteristics?

                        Oh wait. Here's a generic article that might be useful:


                        I see this has probably already come to pass, so hope it went well.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: luganrn

                          As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I find that many Merlots have an affinity for chocolate, and especially if raspberries are anywhere on the plate.


                        2. I do not know if you are set on the wine, but beer has all sorts of interesting complementing/contrasting flavors you could use for this. You could go with differing types of stouts (chocolate, imperial, coffee), porters, cream ales, lambics (especially framboise, though other flavors may prove interesting with chocolate).

                          32 Replies
                          1. re: mikek

                            I never get how mimicking flavors works w/ pairing. To me the two get muddled. Chocolate with a "chocolate" beer (i.e. Porter, Stout, Imperial Stout, chocolate stout, coffee stout) just seems obvious to me.

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              I agree. I think they would compete rather than complement each other.

                              1. re: luganrn

                                I would not do multiple stouts/porters, but I would do a lineup similar to this...

                                A sour
                                A drier framboise lambic
                                Rogue hazelnut brown
                                A good belgian dubbel
                                Founder's Kentucky Breakfast or another bourbon aged
                                Brooklyn Chocolate
                                A citrusly IPA to see how the citrusy/bitterness of the hops may bring out the earthier notes of the chocolate. Cigar City brewery also does a humidor IPA aged with cigar tobacco that would be perfect as a second IPA.

                                I think each one would really highlight a different flavor of the chocolate and work well in a tasting format.

                                1. re: mikek

                                  That is an intriguing list. Framboise lambic is almost like wine to me so it makes sense. I would try that with chocolate. I take back that they would compete. I would have to revisit that. I guess I was thinking more of mainstream beers and ales, that I probably wouldn't pair with chocolate. Though that doesn't mean I might not EAT chocolate with it anyway. :)

                                  1. re: mikek

                                    Have you tried any of these combinations?

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      I have tried a number of them. While I do not have tasting notes on the combinations, I was a big fan of the Sweetwater IPA's citrus notes playing off the chocolate, the lambics were the perfect match of raspberry with chocolate, same with the hazelnut. I am not a huge dubbel fan, but it worked for others quite nicely in a manner similar to a port, but with the carbonation to lift the palate. And yes, the chocolate stout and bourbon aged stouts worked quite nicely as well.

                                      The only ones that I have not tried are that specific Cigar City beer and the sour ale (though lately have been on a sour kick and think it would work quite well). I would also like to try to the Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard in a pairing.

                                      As to the chocolate with sout/porter pairing... in his book the Brewmaster's Table, Garrett Oliver cites a meal he hosted at Gramercy Tavern with NYC's top sommeliers that was finished with a trio of chocolate desserts. One of the two beers he served with it was his Brooklyn Chocolate Imperial Stout (Lindemann's framboise lambic being the other) and makes note of the sommeliers being blown away by the pairing.

                                      At another point in the book, he also cites imperial stouts as a perfect match for more intense chocolate desserts and porters for lighter chocolate desserts.

                                      So I am not sure your skepticism without experience is truly warranted. Give it a shot sometime, you may be surprised.

                                      A few more articles on exactly this subject...


                                      1. re: mikek

                                        I can see my blood sugars rising as I read. I will try the framboise lambic first. Is there a particular chocolate that you would suggest?

                                        1. re: luganrn

                                          I love a dark, dark chocolate with it, but I am also a sucker for white chocolate/raspberry desserts. It is probably the most versatile of all of them listed. I am also not much of a milk chocolate guy. Try to seek out a sour ale as well.

                                          As an aside - one of my favorite combinations in beer is a hazelnut brown ale with a bit of the framboise lambic poured in (think 4:1 hazelnut to lambic ratio, you can also add the lambic to a chocolate stout to brighten it a bit).

                                          1. re: mikek

                                            Wow you should write a recipe book for this.

                                        2. re: mikek

                                          I've tried FBS and Victory Storm King with mildly sweet chocolate desserts. I enjoy both beers but with the dessert the FBS was reduced to mere bitterness. The Storm King faired better with more of the beer's charms shining through but it still didn't work as well as I've been hearing. I'm a much bigger fan of sweet raspberry beers like DFH Fort or Framboise Lambic paired with chocolate; the presence of one highlights and reinforces the other.

                                          1. re: mikek

                                            And I just ordered a Chocolate "FIXX" cupcake for dessert which is a chocolate mousse filled chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. I chose to pair an Imperial Stout named Vader by Fox River Brewing Co. Same phenomenon occurs where the beer's charms are muted with only bitterness remaining.

                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              Different strokes... I do think the contrast is a more interesting pair than the complement, and would generally go lambic, sour, brown or IPA before chocolate stout with a chocolate dessert, but think the chocolate beers still work. Do try the sours, IPAs and hazelnut brown for the contrast flavors. But in a chocolate/beer tasting, I still feel that there is a warranted place at the table for the imperial stouts to offer the full array of flavors to go with the chocolates.

                                              1. re: mikek

                                                I also tried a Scottish Ale (Caber Tossing by Fox River Brewing Co.) with the chocolate cupcake. In this instance the beer which is relatively rich and dense (but not sweet) was made thin and uninteresting when paired with the dessert; although not unpleasant.
                                                My rule which has served me well with dessert pairings is that the beverage must be sweeter than the dessert; which is the only way for it to fully register on the palate. The more fluid the component the sweeter it needs to be. So for a cake would the cake ever be sweeter than the icing? If so would the icing register well on the palate? No. I believe then that the most fluid component (beer on wine) must be the most sweet.

                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                  I understand, but I think that may be a personal preference in this case. As you can see, there are some pretty well versed people who agree that imperial stouts, IPAs, chocolate beers, sour ales, etc. work with chocolate. I think the difference between beer and wine with dessert lies in two things - one, beer has the ability to add the actual ingredient or flavor profile to the bottle and more importantly, the carbonation.

                                                  Garrett Oliver's pairings have always proven to be spot on, and apparently some high profile sommeliers he has dined with agreed with this pairing. In the case of a hazelnut brown, I think the carbonation will lift more of the sweeter coating off your palate and allow for the hazelnut to dance with the chocolate. Conversely, the sour ales have a tartness similar to a raspberry, and they work quite well. To me, the belgians fig backbone also works quite well with chocolate.

                                                  Like I said, maybe they do not work for your personal palate, but to discount them altogether seems a little foolish, since there are plenty of people who perceive those styles of beer to be a great pairing for chocolate and chocolate desserts.

                                                  1. re: mikek

                                                    It might just be an acquired taste. The more you try it, the better it might taste. I don't feel it's necessary for the beverage to be sweeter than the dessert. If it were coffee, would you put in a lot more sugar to compensate? No. Earlier I had said that I like Merlot with chocolate. Merlot isn't sweeter than the chocolate. It's like when they say champagne brings out the flavor in strawberries. Which one is the sweet? I guess my thinking is if the dessert is very sweet, you don't want to add something even sweeter. I would want to cut the sweetness with a less sweet beverage but one that would still have flavor. But that's my preference. As I got older, I preferred my sweets to be less sweet, and my sours to be less sour, and so on. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but there should be balance between the sweetness, the sourness, the saltiness, of all the flavors. Tequila, salt, lime.

                                                    1. re: luganrn

                                                      I will also add - this is especially true with very high % cocoa chocolates, where the line between sweet and bitter is somewhat blurred. I think it will work with a cupcake, but a cupcake has a lot more sugar added to it than high quality chocolates, or even bon bons or truffles.

                                                      1. re: luganrn

                                                        I will agree that coffee does pair well with a variety of desserts and without being sweeter than said dessert. I'll conclude that since coffee is a warm beverage that that might have some impact on it's effectiveness. As for strawberries with Champagne or Merlot with chocolate if you can taste the beverage fully that's the key for me anyway. Otherwise I see it as a waste of the product.

                                                      2. re: mikek

                                                        I guess I'm just not convinced yet w/ chocolate and "chocolate" beer pairings. I try and keep an open mind by continually trying the combination with different beers and desserts though. Question: When you pair non-sweet beers like IPA or Imperial Stout with sweet desserts does the beer register fully on the palate for you?

                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                          Yes, I still wonder about that too. But I've never had a chocolate flavored beer or ale so I can't really offer an opinion, just guesses. Though it's not my first choice if I run out to the liquor store to seek out. I am familiar with framboise lambic and therefore know what to expect. In fact it tastes less like a beer than a sort of wine. Maybe if I had a specific recommendation, such as so-and-so chocolate ale and such-and such chocolate. It would give me something to go on.

                                                          1. re: luganrn

                                                            I think different aspects of it come out more. With IPA's, I get much more of the citrus flavors and a bit of the bitterness as well. With the imperial stouts, the chocolate malts definitely come out fully. I prefer the espresso and coffee based stouts more than chocolates, where it harmonizes and tastes mocha-like.

                                                            For the chocolate beer, I believe it is a seasonal, but the Brooklyn one is delicious and my go to.

                                                            1. re: mikek

                                                              If this discussion is limited to very high %cocoa chocolates (and not chocolate desserts per se) then I could imagine many of the suggestions potentially working; as the lower sugar content might allow them again to register fully on the palate. Hershey's Milk Chocolate or other rich sweet "death by chocolate" desserts present a challenge to non-dessert beverages IMHO.

                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                I am assuming if doing a chocolate tasting or going out of your way to pair dessert with beer, it is not going to be hersheys or similar quality. I think when you start talking death by chocolate desserts, it depends. One, those desserts may include other elements like citrus, hazelnut, etc. Two, death by chocolate does not necessarily mean overly sweet. In fact, like all else, the pastry chef should be able to balance all of those elements. Three, if it is a very rich dessert, a highly carbonated beer will help to cut through that richness.

                                                                If you have a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, I will still hold that various beers (possibly not the chocolate beers) would work quite well.

                                                                1. re: mikek

                                                                  Thank you for your thoughtful response. However I would appreciate a response to my earlier question: when you pair non-sweet beers like IPA or Imperial Stout with sweet desserts does the beer register fully on the palate for you? You mentioned aspects coming out more but again does it fully register?

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    To be honest, it was a while back so I am going off of what stuck out in memory. However, I am going to do a tasting for myself tonight with a Bell's Hopslam, Bell's Double Cream, Brooklyn Chocolate and a couple of other styles that look appealing at the beer shop, and will report back.

                                                                    1. re: mikek

                                                                      Have fun! Write down your chocolates also. :)

                                                                      1. re: mikek

                                                                        I have Lagunitas Hop Stoopid in the fridge. Gimme a dessert pairing for later and I'll pick it up and try it.

                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                          Christopher Elbow's Caramel with Fleur de Sel, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Maybe a Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Caramel combined with their Dark Chocolate with Raspberry and/or their Sea Salt Soiree that has almonds in it. Maybe the raspberry goes better with the lambic.
                                                                          I figured just getting small squares of chocolate bars would be easier than getting full huge desserts that might not work for you. Although I am eager to see what mikek recommends.

                                                                          1. re: luganrn

                                                                            I got:
                                                                            Aquinas Merlot 2007
                                                                            Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown
                                                                            Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout
                                                                            Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
                                                                            Endangered Species Chocolate 88% cocoa Dark Chocolate
                                                                            Endangered Species Chocolate 72% cocoa Dark Chocolate
                                                                            Newman's Organics 54% cocoa Dark Chocolate
                                                                            Newman's Organics 34% cocoa Milk Chocolate

                                                                            Even if it's a complete failure it will still be fun;]

                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                              I went to a local chocolatier in Atlanta, got a blueberry/dark chocolate blend, a white choc w/ lemon and chamomile, a white chocolate bark with assorted nuts, dark chocolate with papaya and a chocolate with salted hazelnut.

                                                                              For beers, I have the Brooklyn Chocolate stout, the Bell's Hopslam, Bell's Oarsman (sour wheat), Bell's Double Cream Stout, Mikkeler Simcoe IPA and Rochefort 8.

                                                                              I actually had a lengthy conversation with the asst. chocolatier who is also a home brewer, and they have done chocolate/beer tastings with a local pub here (Brickstore Pub) and we actually quite enthralled with this idea and general conversation. The owner, who was a pastry chef at a few of the top restaurants here in town, actually recounted how tasting a porter with her chocolate when organizing that event was a revelatory moment for her with beer (she does not drink much).

                                                                              Please let me know how you think it turns out. Everyone's palate, as we all know, is unique and different. Regardless, it should be fun and a good excuse to get drunk in a different format hahaha.

                                                                              1. re: mikek

                                                                                I wish you guys good drinking and good chocolate! Somehow it would be great if you guys combined your menu and invited a few people (me?). I look forward to all the reviews.

                                                                                1. re: mikek

                                                                                  Ok so my findings are as follows:

                                                                                  Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown:
                                                                                  1) w/ 88% chocolate - Not good. Both the chocolate and beer are dry with graininess in beer becoming quite prominent.
                                                                                  2) w/ 72%, 54% and 34% chocolate - Beer is too thin and turned virtually to water by the chocolates. 

                                                                                  Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout:
                                                                                  1) w/88% cocoa - Beer and chocolate both dry and not complimentary. 
                                                                                  2) w/ 72% cocoa - Beer's flavor reduced to bitterness.
                                                                                  3) w/ 54% cocoa - Combination works better with some bitterness trailing. 
                                                                                  4) w/ 34% cocoa - Not bad. Enjoyable in the way beer or wine is enjoyable with cheese. 

                                                                                  Lagunitas Hop Stoopid: 
                                                                                  1) w/ 88% cocoa - Bone dry chocolate goes well with beer.
                                                                                  2) w/ 72% cocoa - Beer and chocolate compete and create confusion.
                                                                                  3) w/ 54% cocoa - Beer provides a very pleasant citrus lemon streak of contrast across dark richness of chocolate
                                                                                  4) w/ 34% cocoa - Nicer than the above. Good pairing.

                                                                                  Aquinas Merlot: 
                                                                                  1) w/ 88% cocoa - Chocolate makes wine taste tart and in an unpleasant way.
                                                                                  2) w/ 72% cocoa - Nicer but still tart. Wine's fruit becomes more pronounced. 
                                                                                  3) w/ 54% cocoa - Good as above
                                                                                  4) w/ 34% cocoa - Still good but less of the wine's character coming thru due to sugar.

                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                    For me, I think it all comes down to the hops balanced against the malts. The Bell's Hopslam (very citrusy hop profile brewed with lemon) was absolutely delicious with the bitter/high cocoa % chocolates. It did, however, overwhelm the flavors when the cocoa % was not quite so high. I thought the beer came through fully with the bitterness of the chocolate.

                                                                                    The oarsman ale, a wheat brewed with sour mash, worked very, very well with the white chocolate based truffles, particularly the one with lemon where the acidity of the lemon played off the sour mash quite nicely. I thought this one also held its own against the higher cocoa % chocolates, with the sour backbone of the beer playing off the chocolate quite well. Full flavor of the beer came through, and acted as an additional component to the chocolate.

                                                                                    The Rochefort 8 was absolutely phenomenal with all chocolates thrown its way. The complexity of the beer, and its depth of flavors, allowed for different aspects to shine with different chocolates. The full profile came through. HIGHLY recommend including this one in any tasting.

                                                                                    Bell's Chocolate Stout I thought worked, but can 100% see how the flavors would overwhelm for some. To me, it acted as another layer of chocolate-y goodness in a way chocolate frosting on chocolate cake works. I thought it had its own unique flavors that were easily distinguishable, but could understand how to some it would be too chocolate heavy versus a contrast beverage.

                                                                                    All in all, I thought it was a worthy adventure, and one that truly worked on many levels for me. Next time, I would throw a true Sour in there and maybe use a lower hopped beer than the Hopslam for the IPA (Hop Stoopid was probably a great choice). I may seek out a cream ale to throw in there or perhaps the Hitachino Lacto Stout.