The concept of red wine pairing with chocolate produces wildly different responses in those with an interest in either or both of these wonderful products.
The wine pairing purists abhor the heresy involved in even contemplating such a prospect and they admonish those who think that anything goes with chocolate and/or anything goes with red wine.
However there are many lovers of both red wine and chocolate who think this is a marriage made in heaven and to heck with those that think otherwise.
Of course, those with a commercial interest in encouraging the joining of red wine and chocolate into a single offering for holiday gifts and the like will happily ignore the societal acceptance of wine pairing and chocolate for the greater financial gain.
As it happens, there is good scientific evidence to support the incompatibility of this red wine-chocolate combo.
Red Wine Pairing with Chocolate
Both are concentrated sources of flavonoids (a class of polyphenol), some of the compounds that give wine its backbone, chocolate its bitterness, and both their deep red-purple color (yes, there is red-purple in chocolate, though it’s far more pronounced in unprocessed cacao than the oxidized browns of Dutched cocoa). Most of the flavonoids that give cacao its astringency degrade during fermentation—ripe cacao pods are fermented just after harvesting to help remove the pulp from the beans and to improve the beans’ flavor—but enough still remains to give finished chocolate a bit of an edge. Hence, dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa liqueur (and therefore relatively little sugar) has a bitterness that’s an acquired taste in much the same way that structured (think lots of polyphenols) red wines are an acquired taste for most people.
We all know that most red wine is rich in tannin, but so is chocolate. Cocoa powder actually contains more tannin than black tea. So, if you’ve ever thought that a piece of chocolate made your red wine taste more “dry,” there’s a good explanation behind your experience. Read the full wine pairing and chocolate article here.
The modern palate has been conditioned via our love of processed food to be very sugar conscious.
The effect when red wine pairing with chocolate is that the sweetness of the chocolate will make the wine taste unpleasantly tart. I am sure many a good bottle of red wine has suffered at the hands of critics influenced by sweetness in the mouth, perhaps caused by chocolate.
A further interesting aspect to this discussion rests with the temperature of both the wine and the chocolate.
Good chocolate is best appreciated when you allow it to melt a bit in your mouth. In fact, chocolate is often tempered so that it melts as close to body temperature as possible. Melting the chocolate rather than just chewing it allows more of the chocolate to come into contact with the taste receptors on the surface of your tongue, and flavors in general are enhanced at warmer temperatures, too. But even a red wine cooled to an appropriate 60-65°F is significantly below body temperature and will cool down the interior of your mouth, causing your next bite of chocolate to take longer to melt and dampening the release of its flavors.
Despite the convincing science, ultimately red wine pairing with chocolate comes down to personal taste. If you like it, do it.
Do you have any thoughts on the wine and chocolate combination, and any other groupings which seem at odds? If so, add your comments below.