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Wine and Chocolate Pairings

Which came first, the chocolate or the wine? If you're anything like us, your history with both gastronomical pleasures simply goes back too far to remember. Wine and chocolate are hands down two of the greatest pleasures in life; when paired together properly, the experience can be out of this world. Though when paired improperly, the combination will taste like a mismatched, bitter car crash in your mouth. Chocolate and wine have extremely intense flavor profiles, both of which want to dominate your palate. When pairing the two together, it's necessary to keep both components in check (or to keep your wine just a little bit sweeter!) Follow the simple guide below for the next time the craving for something sweet strikes-- because wine makes everything, even chocolate, just a little bit bitter.

White Chocolate - OK, so white chocolate isn't actually chocolate, but who doesn't love a good piece of it every once in awhile? This cocoa fat based delicacy is intensely sweet, needing a wine with just as much RS (that's Residual Sugar) to stand up to it. Look for a frothy Moscato d'Asti, late-harvest Riesling, or Eiswein-- if you're feeling fancy and ready to splurge, that is.

Milk Chocolate - Milk chocolate is the Goldilocks of chocolate: not too sweet, not too dry, and most of the time, always just right. For Milk Chocolate, we like to stick with sweeter red wines, such as Ruby Port or Maury (VDN from Southern France.) A nutty, sweet Sherry (either Moscatel or PX based) will add a layered texture to the wine as well. And for something a little different, try a Lambrusco! Bubbles, froth, and jammy red-fruit flavors paired with milk chocolate gives the pairing a little PB&J like effect.

Dark Chocolate - Ah, dark chocolate, the bitterest of them all. Dark chocolate's lower sugar content allows the treat to be paired with a lower RS wine, though you'll generally still want a hint of sweetness in there. A Vintage or Tawny Port makes for an excellent pairing, though again, drier red wines can work too. Seek out juicy Zinfandels or New World Pinot Noirs; a dry red wine with an excessive amount of tannins will have a full on brawl in your mouth with the dark chocolate's bitterness.

Other Chocolates - Cakes, caramels, peanut butter cups… the options are endless! Again, the basic rule to remember here is that you want your wine to be equally or slightly more sweet than the dessert it's being paired with. Sweet Madeiras and Tawny Ports are killer with caramel, adding a nutty complexity to the richness of the filling. Same goes for Peanut Butter, though again the PB&J effect can work here as well, when paired with a sweet red blend. And when it comes to those decadent, chocolate covered strawberries, we're pairing red-fruit with red fruit-- and bubbles, of course, by choosing a fizzy Lambrusco or Brachetto d'Acqui.

As with learning about wine, learning about pairing works the same way; you can read about it all you want, but the best thing to do is taste, taste, and taste some more. Get a group of chocolate & wine loving friends together (which shouldn't be too hard) and experiment together. Assign each person a different type of wine to bring, as well as a dessert or chocolate of their choice, and see for yourself which pairings work best for you.

Considering that there are significantly fewer types of sweet wine than dry out in the world, and that all of your pairings will want a wine sweeter than the treat, many of the bottles will work repeatedly well with various desserts. As with anything, wine and chocolate pairing is totally subjective-- and finding out what works for you is definitely the best part.