What to drink with chocolate

From left: Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Venezuelan rum; Simão & Co Wines 2014 Vintage Fortified; D’Oliveiras Colheita 2001 Boal Madeira.

From left: Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Venezuelan rum; Simão & Co Wines 2014 Vintage Fortified; D’Oliveiras Colheita 2001 Boal Madeira.

Stop! Put that bottle of shiraz down. Red wine is rarely chocolate's best friend, according to Max Allen.

Chocolate marketers often spruik the joys of the red-wine-and-choc combo. But they're misguided. Try it if you don't believe me. Take a piece of your favourite chocolate and pour yourself a glass of your favourite red. Individually, each is lovely. But put them together and chances are they'll clash.

I'm not completely against drinking red wine with chocolate. A dark, bitter chocolate with 85 per cent cocoa solids carefully matched with the right full-bodied red - one with lots of sweet, rich fruit and ample but supple tannin - can be delicious. But the key words here are "carefully matched": I find most red wines simply too dry and tannic to work well. And I'm not the only one.

"I tell people all the time not to do red wine and chocolate," says Samantha Payne, sommelier at Nomad in Sydney. "The tannins in the wine and that mouthcoating texture and bitterness you get in good chocolate just fight with each other. It's the same reason I wouldn't recommend a high-acid wine with a dish that has lots of acidity: the two elements are too similar."

Instead, Payne looks for wines that complement and provide a foil for the taste and texture of the chocolate. "We're doing a take on a Turkish delight trifle," she says. "It's got chocolate ganache and choc biscuit pieces in it, and I'm matching it with Chalmers appassimento sagrantino. Yes, technically it's a red wine because it's made from red grapes, but those grapes are air-dried before fermentation, so the flavours are raisined, the tannins are softer and there's a lovely sweetness."

Another sommelier standby for chocolate is Banyuls, a sweet red fortified made from old grenache vines in the hills of Roussillon, in south-west France: again, the added fortifying alcohol and rich plummy sweetness from the ripe fruit bring extra dimension to the wine, helping it match the intensity of dark chocolate.

Winemaker Simon Killeen reaches for fortified wines when there's chocolate on the table. Killeen grew up in a wine family in Rutherglen surrounded by barrels of maturing muscat and tokay and port, so he's had plenty of time and experience refining his matches.

"I've got a massive sweet tooth," he says. "Really dark chocolate can go with a big dry red - especially if the chocolate has some sea salt involved - but the classic matches are rich, sweet muscat with milk chocolate, and vintage fortified (what we used to call vintage port) with dark chocolate."

The 2014 Vintage Fortified he makes under his Simão & Co label is a brilliant example of the style, full of the vibrant perfumed purple fruit of the six varieties in the blend, including tempranillo, touriga nacional and durif. Killeen likes to introduce a salty note by offering both dark chocolate and a hard cheese to guests. "The saltiness in the cheese helps to soften those tannins in the wine and prepare it for the chocolate," he says.

Spanish and Portuguese wine specialist Scott Wasley recommends the fortified wines of the Iberian Peninsula and Madeira with chocolate. But he doesn't go for the traditional choice of super-sweet and luscious wines such as Pedro Ximénez sherry. Instead he prefers medium-sweet fortifieds with intense flavour and the high-toned characters that come from spending many years maturing in barrel. "As long as the chocolate is nice and dark, not too sweet, these wines have the power to cut through and make a great match," he says. "Really intense and nutty amontillado can work well. Oloroso is very good. And an old medium-sweet Madeira made from the boal grape is fabulous."

If you like something stronger than sherry or Madeira, the world of spirits is your oyster. Winemaker and chocolatier Peter Wilson (of Kennedy & Wilson) introduced me to the joys of chocolate with whisky, demonstrating how the lighter body and heather perfume of a Speyside single malt is a great partner for milk chocolate, while the gutsy peaty tang of an Islay whisky can be wonderful with savoury, dark chocolate.

And then, of course, consider the regional match. Chocolate originated in South America, so it's no surprise to discover that rum can be a great coupling.

"When we do tastings of the Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Venezuelan rum we give dark chocolate," says spirits importer Ben Baranow. "It's a match made in heaven - and the darker the chocolate the better, so the sweetness in the rum gets a chance to shine."

Try one of these matches and you'll never go back to drinking red wine with chocolate again. Unless you really want to.


GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

Jennifer Hawkins Sesion tequila

Tequila is the new black. At least it is for Jennifer Hawkin...

Top drops: March 2017

From a floral bottle of English bubble to a tangy gin perfec...

Signature drink: Hains & Co's Crimson Mainsail

Don’t be fooled – this cocktail looks pretty but packs a pun...

Australian sour beers

Craft brewing in Australia is hitting a sour note, and that’...

Original Sin's Grande Bellezza

A fresh, bright Italian-accented sundowner.

Short restaurant wine lists

Small is the order of the day in restaurants, with tight win...

Mitch Monaghan, Nespresso

We caught up with Nespresso Australia and New Zealand coffee...

Signature Drink: The Baxter Inn’s Charlestown

Grab the mink and the fedora – this Baxter cocktail means bu...

Game up your G&Ts with a Distiller’s Strength Gin

Is this the year of gin going where no botanicals have gone ...

Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit, arrives in Australia

The question of what to drink when you’re not having a drink...

Signature drinks

Thirty of our favourite drinks from Australia's best bars an...

Hot 100 2015 - Drinks

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

Mover, shaker

The best thing you can take to a party, according to cocktai...

Best Australian red wines for drinking now

Australians are getting a taste for thirst-quenching reds ma...

Champagne breakfast: a question of etiquette

Campari with your cornflakes? Whether booze is okay at break...