A Sommelier Explains Why Dessert Wine Is The Best Pairing For Dark Chocolate

Dinner's all done, and you've been eyeing this box of high-quality dark chocolate truffles all night long. The chocolates are rich and decadent, and you can't help but wonder if there's a perfect after-dinner drink to pair with them. Of course, something bubbly and boozy would be best. Thoughts like these keep us up at night at Tasting Table, so we sat down with Doreen Winkler, the founder of Orange Glou, the world's first orange wine subscription service and wine store in New York City, and picked her brain. Winkler is also an orange wine expert and natural wine sommelier. 

When asked what's the best type of wine to pair with dark chocolate, Winkler immediately pointed to dessert wine. She added, "Red Late-bottled Vintage Port (LBV) is an excellent choice for dark chocolate. The wine is barrel aged for four to six years, yielding a medium-body, soft and silky texture, and mild tannins, with ripe dark fruit notes of blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry." When having the port with dark chocolate, Winkler explained that the two "just melt together" in a perfect pairing. This is because dark chocolate has sharp and bitter notes and tends to be less sweet than milk and white varieties. This means that dessert wines with fruity notes and gentle sweetness can perfectly balance dark chocolate's bitterness and lack of sweetness. 

The best dessert wine and dark chocolate pairings

Doreen Winkler also pointed out a broader range of options for pairing dark chocolate with dessert wines. For example, she added, "The medium-bodied LBV is pretty perfect with dark chocolate bark or truffles." But let's say you have a craving for other chocolate treats, like a delicious miso chocolate lava cake. What wine should you pair the rich cake with? 

Winkler explained, "If the dark chocolate is transformed into a molten chocolate cake, I'd prefer to pair it with a Banyuls — a red dessert wine from the South of France." Dark chocolate cakes are moist and creamy. The velvety texture and dark cherry notes of Banyuls perfectly slice through the richness and decadence of chocolate cakes. It's the same reason that Black Forest cakes (or gateaux), which pair chocolate with cherries, are so popular.

It's good to note that while some fortified wines like Banyuls are considered dessert wines and are plenty sweet, they are not overly sweet. Chocolate cakes are sweeter than dark chocolates, which is why the sugary chocolate cake and not-too-sweet Banyuls pairing works harmoniously. So, the next time you're about to enjoy dark chocolate or chocolate cake, remember to pick up a bottle of dessert wine, be it red LBV, a medium-bodied LBV, or a mildly sweet Banyuls.