Chocolate and bubbly may seem like a brilliant combo, but more often than not your pairing will end up like an ill-fated blind date in your mouth, leaving you thinking: THAT didn’t work out! But if you’re looking to splurge on a little luxury, take a quick moment to learn about how to painlessly pair Champagne and chocolate.
Successful Champagne and chocolate pairing is actually quite difficult. You always want the wine to be sweeter than the chocolate. Stick with Moscato or sparkling wines labeled sec, demi sec, doux/off-dry style. These wines will taste sweeter and rounder on the palate. Avoid dark chocolate that’s 80%+ cocoa, because it will make your sparkling wine taste bitter and unpleasant.
- What Chocolate Goes with Champagne?
- The Number One Rule when Pairing Champagne and Chocolate
- DIY Champagne and Chocolate Pairing Tasting Flight
- Champagne and Chocolate Pairing: Can You Substitute Any Sparkling Wine for Champagne?
- Pick Your Chocolates
- Setting Up Your Chocolate and Champagne Pairing: 3 Easy Steps
- 3 Twists to Chocolate and Sparkling Wine Pairings
- Do You Have to Use Expensive Champagne or Chocolate?
- Final Thoughts – Chocolate and Wine Pairing Needs Experimentation
What Chocolate Goes with Champagne?
The challenge with bubbles and chocolate is that both foods explode in your mouth, bringing a layered combination of tactile sensations along with unique flavors.
- Wine is fruity. Chocolate can be fruity, too.
- Sparkling wine’s effervescence tickles your nose.
- Chocolate blankets your mouth in cloying velvet.
Each stand on their own as power foods worthy of being savored individually. Now you’re trying to match them together?
It’s tough, but doable!
Let’s start with chocolate. Chocolate’s bitter. Dark chocolate with higher percentages of cocoa and less sugar will intensify the bitterness in your mouth.
Sparkling wine is high in acid.
This cuts through chocolate’s butter fat and can further accentuate the chocolate’s bitterness.
Understanding this interplay between acid, sugar, and bitterness will help you pick winning combinations for your sparkling wine and chocolate tasting.
The Number One Rule when Pairing Champagne and Chocolate
As a general rule of thumb, the best Champagne and chocolate pairing will match styles. Dark chocolate pairs with drier bubbly.
Look for the word ‘brut’ on the sparkling wine label.
Chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa, white and milk chocolate will pair better with off-dry and sweet sparkling wines that come with the words ‘sec’ or ‘doux’ on the label.
High octane dark chocolate that’s 80%+ cocoa can be challenging to pair with sparkling wine because of its low level of sweetness.
When matched with a dry Champagne-style wine, the astringency in the chocolate will make a dry bubbly taste bitter and rather unpleasant.
Stick with chocolate that’s around 65% cocoa.
DIY Champagne and Chocolate Pairing Tasting Flight
Looking for an entertaining wine evening? Gather friends for a sparkling wine and chocolate tasting pairing party (and invite me, please!). Choose 3-4 wines and an assortment of chocolates.
Below is a sample sparkling wine flight in the recommended tasting order – dry to sweet.
All of these wines are mainstream, so they should be easy to find in your local wine shop.
- Champagne or sparkling wine (brut/dry style): Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier, and/or Chardonnay, traditional sparkling wines in the brut style will be acid-driven with green fruit, stone fruit, citrus, and floral notes. Depending on the style, it may also have biscuit, pastry, and brioche.
- Cava: Cava is Spain’s counterpoint to France’s Champagne. Cava blends three unique and aromatic grapes: Xarel.lo, Parellada, and Macabeo. The Cava growing region benefits from a slightly warmer climate than Champagne, and these wines will likely be more fruit-forward and aromatic than French sparkling wine (and less expensive).
- Moscato d’Asti: Made from the Muscat grape and hailing from Italy, this wine is lower in alcohol, light, slightly sweet, and highly aromatic with citrus blossom and honeysuckle (also a good value wine).
- Champagne or sparkling wine (sec, demi sec, doux/off-dry style): This will be an off-dry style of traditional sparkling wine and will taste sweeter and rounder on the palate.
If you’re not ready to open four (!?) bottles of sparkling wine, stick with the Moscato d’Asti or the doux style Champagne.
Champagne and Chocolate Pairing: Can You Substitute Any Sparkling Wine for Champagne?
Absolutely! The name ‘Champagne’ is legally protected under international trade law and applies to sparkling wines made specifically in the Champagne region of France.
Producers around the world craft Champagne-style sparkling wine, but must use an alternative label designation.
Even sparkling wines from other regions within France are prohibited from using the name Champagne. They’re relegated to crémant.
So, if you can find a sparkling, crémant, or even Cap Classique (South Africa) style wine but not a ‘Champagne’, feel confident that the term ‘sparkling’ has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the vagaries of international trade law.
Pick Your Chocolates
You’ll want to find unique styles of chocolate for your pairing. White chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate with different levels of cocoa are a great way to start. If you have a chocolate lover in your life, now’s the time tap into their expertise.
The world of fine chocolate is as complex as the world of fine wine.
Setting Up Your Chocolate and Champagne Pairing: 3 Easy Steps
- Step 1: Chill your sparkling wine. You’ll want it to be cool, but not cold. Aim for around 8°C-10°C (47°F -50°F). The average home refrigerator temperature is around 40°F, so you can safely take the wine out of the fridge about 15-20 min. before serving.
NEVER put your sparkling wine in the freezer. Sparkling wine bottles are under 6 atmospheres of pressure. They will explode (sheepish voice of experience).
- Step 2: Before the tasting, you will want to line up the chocolates and have a Champagne-style wine flute (tall skinny glass) ready to pour your wine. Don’t pour ahead of time. You want the bubbles to be fresh.
- Step 3: Start with the chocolates that have the higher percentages of cocoa and the drier wines first, saving the richer, heavier ones for last. Moving from dry to sweet and back to dry again will make the dry wines seem more austere. If you do go back and forth, be prepared for some general unpleasantness (but a fantastic experiment nonetheless).
If you didn’t include any chocolates with nuts or salt, think about adding some crackers or nuts alongside your pairing.
These will be excellent palate cleansers that can cut through the chocolate’s fat and the wine’s acid as you sip your way through your chocolate flight.
Are you a natural multitasker? Try chocolate dipped pretzels: salty, sweet, crunchy, chocolatey goodness all in one.
3 Twists to Chocolate and Sparkling Wine Pairings
- Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Chocolate dipped strawberries are the very definition of decadence. Their tangy acidity will pair will with your sparkling wine. (Here’s an easy chocolate covered strawberry recipe.)
- Brownies, Cakes, and Cookies. As long as you remember to choose a sweeter sparkling wine, pairing your signature brownie or chocolate cake recipe can add a touch of personality to your pairing.
- Full on Fondue. Whenever I hear the word ‘fondue’ my mind automatically pictures a room full of beehive hairdos, bell bottoms, and plaid polyester. Go find your fondue set (that probably hasn’t been used since the 1960s, let’s be honest), and chop up a selection of fruits for a little skewer action. While this pairing won’t let you try different styles of chocolates necessarily, there’s nothing stopping you from tasting a selection of bubbles.
Helpful Tip: Here’s how to save your leftover sparkling wine.
Do You Have to Use Expensive Champagne or Chocolate?
Price point is a perfect question for this pairing because everyone already has a frame of reference for what ‘good’ chocolate is.
Yes, you can pick up a chocolate candy bar at the grocery store checkout for pocket change. It has all of the ingredients of chocolate and you know what this tastes like.
But what if you spend a little more for a handmade truffle from your local chocolatier?
The bonbon shares the same basic ingredients as its grocery store cousin, but the flavor intensity and texture stand in stark contrast to the candy bar.
Sparkling wine falls on the same quality spectrum.
You can grab a $5 sparkling wine (probably from the same grocery store as the candy bar), or you can find a sparkling wine that costs thousands of dollars – think Dom Perignon. So what should you choose?
Go ahead! Try the cheap stuff! (I won’t tell)
A fun experiment would be to try the inexpensive bubbly and candy bar tasting along with something one or two rungs up the quality ladder. Not enough to break the bank, but certainly worthy of a luxurious evening.
Final Thoughts – Chocolate and Wine Pairing Needs Experimentation
Savor the flavors! Both chocolate and Champagne bring joy to your senses. Don’t rush this tasting. Go through and take note of what you prefer until you find that utterly indulgent combination.
Thirsty for More?
If you’re just getting started out with wine, I put together this helpful overview of food with wine pairing to get you started. Side note – I spend just as much time thinking about food with wine pairing as I do deciding what I’m going to eat every night. Utter hedonism. What can I say?
The best way to learn about wines is through side-by-side comparisons with wine flights. I highly suggest DIY wine flights. Check out this post I put together to get you started with wine flights.