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The Worst Match Ever—Wine and Chocolate

By Karen MacNeil
February 9, 2017

It may sound romantic—even inspired—but as marriages go, wine and chocolate are a match made in hell (or in the depths of the marketing department). Yes, Valentine’s Day is coming up. But unless you want that great cab you’ve been saving to taste like two buck chuck, don’t drink it with chocolate (Even good chocolate).

Chocolate is an extremely powerful, profound, and complex flavor. In its presence, most wines are reduced to tasting as bland as tap water or worse. Chocolate’s deep bitterness accentuates the tannin in cabernet sauvignon, making the wine taste severe and angular. Chocolate’s rich fruitiness blows away the graceful nuances of pinot noir, making the wine taste swampy. Chocolate and chardonnay? Only if you want the chardonnay to taste like lighter fluid. Especially high on the revolting scale? Riesling or sauvignon blanc with chocolate.

I recently asked a dozen Napa Valley winemakers to tell me the worst food and wine combination they’d ever had. At least half of them mentioned their wine paired with chocolate. Winemaker and co-owner Pam Starr (Crocker & Starr) said, “If you need to eat chocolate, get yourself a cup of coffee; enjoy the chocolate. But don’t ruin my wine with that decadent dark stuff!”

There are, however, two wines that I think do taste good with chocolate—Vintage Port and Malmsey Madeira, both of which are sweet and fortified.

In the end, the dominatrix chocolate needs a partner more powerful and opulent than herself.