Wine and chocolate: Some pairings are matches made in heaven

Oloroso sherry pairs well with chocolate bark. / Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Oloroso sherry pairs well with chocolate bark. / Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

While the idea of red wine and chocolates making great partners sounds romantic, grabbing a robust cabernet to pour with your box of bonbons might leave you disappointed.

Chocolate provides one of the more challenging pairings of food and wine, since you are dealing with a tricky combination of sugar, bitter tannin and the richness of fat.

Sugar can make a dry wine taste more tart. And the flavanols present in both chocolate and wine can cause an intense, bitter clash. The classic solution is to go sweet-on-sweet, pairing a rather sweet wine with a chocolate treat. This pairing is harmonious, but many wine drinkers today prefer a less sweet, less rich option.

We want to remedy this by recommending wines that are more versatile, and generally agreeable to the modern palate. We visited our friends at Athens-based Condor Chocolates, a bean-to-bar shop, to explore the potential for perfect pairings. Condor makes high-quality chocolate treats that have complexity, but are relatively low in sugar, which makes them easier to pair with wine.

After some grueling research, here are a few of our favorite pairings:

Le Morette cepage vino spumante brut rosé, paired with white chocolate and a strawberry bar. When selecting a sparkling rosé, you want to go with something that is more on the fruity side (this is not the time for a robust, dry rosé Champagne). Also, you want to choose a wine that is only lightly sweet, like this delightful Italian sparkling rosé. The strawberry notes in the wine go perfectly with the strawberry bar, and the bubbles help cleanse your palate from the very creamy white chocolate.

Zanasi grasparossa lambrusco, paired with a dark chocolate raspberry truffle. We frankly believe everyone should be drinking more lambrusco! There are so many good options available, and the Zanasi is one of our favorites. This deep red, sparkling wine is fruity enough to complement the raspberry chocolate. Open a bottle with pizza for dinner, and save a bit to go with dessert.

Camp zinfandel, paired with a 72% dark chocolate and smoked sea salt bar. If you want to do a dry red wine with chocolate, go for a wine that is low in tannins and heavy on fruity flavors. Zinfandel always is our pick in that case, and this choice from Hobo Wine Co. is a juicy favorite for summer. The little tinge of salt in the bar pops the fruity notes of the wine and balances out the whole experience.

Oloroso sherry, paired with hazelnut citrus chocolate bark. There is a vast spectrum of styles in the sherry category, from bone-dry and savory, to rich and very sweet. Oloroso sherry is a nice, midpoint style — technically dry, but with a rounder texture and very subtle sweetness. The aging process of the wine involves exposure to oxygen, which gives it a distinct, nutty aroma and taste. It’s definitely a fun pairing with nuts, whether in chocolate or as a pre-dinner snack.

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