8 Wines To Pair With Chocolate For Valentine’s Day
Wine and chocolate already have powerful appeal on an individual basis, but put them together and you’re in for one indulgent pairing. But it’s not as simple as grabbing a pretty-labeled bottle off the shelf and blindly shoving chocolate kisses in your mouth.
“Pairing wine with sweets can be a challenge,” says Jeff Porter, certified sommelier and host of the upcoming video series Sip Trip. First off, there’s a bunch of sugar everywhere; second, everyone’s go-to ‘match’ of big Cabernets and chocolate is actually kind of a miss, since the wine’s bitter tannins tend to suffocate the chocolate.
“When pairing desserts [with wine], I try to keep the sweetness levels somewhat in line,” Porter says, “but moreso, I look for flavors that work together. I think of all the awesome candy bars I've had as a kid and try to recreate some of those flavor synergies with wine and chocolate.” Take a Snickers bar with its nuts, caramel, and chocolate -- you might look for a wine with nuttiness and caramel notes to complement the chocolate.
With Valentine's Day looming, we’ve got you covered with eight swoon-worthy wine and chocolate pairings (plus one bonus beer pairing).
Zenato Cormí Merlot Corvina delle Venezie IGT 2013 ($23)
Pair with: Dark or milk chocolate candy
Hailing from Italy’s Valpolicella region, this full-bodied red is 50% merlot and 50% corvina, the region’s signature red varietal. This is an expression of two halves becoming one (delicious wine), offering a red berry bouquet and notes of cherries, blackberries, and mint, while the merlot creates a soft mouthfeel that begs to be paired with dark or milk chocolate. Plus, "Cormi" means "my heart" in Veronese dialect, and the label’s festive heart graphic will gain you back brownie points since that candy definitely came from the drugstore.
Mumm Napa Brut Rosé ($24)
Pair with: Milk chocolate-covered strawberries
With roots leading back to international French Champagne house G.H. Mumm, Mumm Napa certainly knows how to do sophisticated sparkling wine -- which always feels more celebratory. This rosé brut is created, naturally, using Champagne’s Traditional Method and 18 months yeast aging. While chardonnay (20%) can take credit for its structure and poise, pinot noir (80%) delivers the pink coral color, soft texture, and bold red fruit flavors -- all that makes for a seductive match with the sweetness of milk chocolate covered strawberries.
The Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel ($21.99)
Pair with: Dark chocolate covered caramel with sea salt
This California blend of zinfandel, petit syrah, and merlot was aged for months in American oak barrels, then finished off in bourbon barrels for another six months. The resulting juice has robust fruit flavors and just enough tannins to balance out dark chocolate’s slight bitterness; with the wine’s caramel smokiness on the palate and nose reaped from the bourbon barrels, it naturally meshes with the savory caramel in the chocolate and its salty notes on top.
Marques de Murrieta Capellanía White Reserva 2014 ($30)
Pair with: White chocolate-dipped oranges
This white from Rioja, Spain, was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, then briefly fermented in stainless steel -- the outcome is a wine as complex as your relationship status. Take a sip and bask in the mouth-coating richness, which plays well with the extra-sweet cocoa butter in white chocolate. Next, take a bite -- the wine’s lingering, subtle flavors of coconut, candied citrus, and cinnamon swirl together with the chocolate-soaked orange. Now, take another sip… and repeat until it's all gone.
Santa Julia Tintillo 2018 ($13)
Pair with: Creamy chocolate mousse
The Mendoza region of Argentina is renowned for their spectacular malbecs. Here’s a medium-bodied 50/50 blend of malbec and Bonarda grapes that showcases juicy fruit flavors (strawberries, cherries, raspberries), bright acidity, and a noticeable lack of tannins. When served slightly chilled with V-day dessert, the wine’s easy-drinking character makes a sultry combo with silky chocolate mousse (especially if bae is spoon-feeding it to you).
Rocca di Montemassi Renaissance Rosé 2017 ($16.99)
Pair with: Semi-sweet and spicy dark chocolate
It’s Valentine’s Day: Time to accept that rosé is a year-round sip, think pink, and turn up the heat! This elegant rosé from Tuscany is a delicate blend of sangiovese (60%) and syrah (40%) that’s sure to unveil that love is not lost on you. The wine lures you in with ripe fruit flavors and fresh floral aromas, then delivers a burst of spice at the finish (from the syrah). If you’re feeling flirty, this balanced pink wine lends itself to adventure -- like glugging a glass between zippy nibbles of semi-sweet dark chocolate infused with chili pepper.
BERA Brachetto Piemonte DOC 2016 ($18)
Pair with: Chocolate peanut butter fudge
Maybe you’re spending Valentine’s Day with your lover by candlelight; or maybe you’re sweatpants-clad with your best friends and trashing your exes. Either way, you’ve met your sipping match with a red frizzante (semi-sparkling). This rich, medium-sweet wine is made with 100% brachetto grapes (grown predominantly in the Piedmont region) and is bursting with tastes of sweet plums and red cherries. And what better to pair with these jammy flavors than a square of chocolate peanut butter fudge? The answer is five squares of chocolate peanut butter fudge.
Kendall-Jackson 2017 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay ($17)
Pair with: Chocolate-drizzled popcorn balls
Buttery chardonnay is style that’s quintessentially Napa Valley; the wine’s rich toastiness and long-lasting finish come from putting the grapes through a secondary (malolactic) fermentation to soften the acidity and round out the flavors. This popular bottle of chardonnay is vibrant, complex, and, of course, buttery, making it exceptionally food-friendly. Bust out the chocolate-drizzled popcorn balls (ideally sprinkled with red and pink M&Ms) and it’s truly a match made in heaven.
Bonus Beer!: Sapporo Premium Black ($3.99/can)
Pair with: Chocolate hazelnut truffles
You are correct: This is not a wine. But in the event your date is a chocolate-loving beer connoisseur, it’s important to tend to his/her inner desires on a Hallmark holiday. When you think of dark beer, you likely imagine heavy stouts and porters (say, Guinness), but this is a flavorful lager that drinks light -- and leaves room for dessert. It has bold crispness, roasted dark malts, refined hops, and a semi-sweet fullness at the end. Each sip is crazy smooth and presents distinct coffee and chocolate notes, which will pair dangerously well with that box of chocolate hazelnut truffles.