5 expert entertaining tips for the perfect tasting.
Chocolate, wine and a group of your closest friends? Sounds like the makings of a great night in. Here’s our entertaining guide to hosting a chocolate and red wine pairing party – with tips from Devin Connell, founder of food website Crumb and owner of Toronto’s Delica Kitchen, and pairing suggestions from Fine Wine Specialist Joey Krueger of Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits.
TIP 1: Choose your pairings in advance
Wines that generally pair well with dark chocolate are full-bodied, rich and not too tannic. Grape varieties such as Zinfandel, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec and Nero d’Avola are good candidates, as well as wines that traditionally have a bit of residual sugar such as Amarone della Valpolicella. The following three wine and chocolate pairings are a great place to start.
Lindt Excellence 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate + Sterling Vintner’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
This Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in oak, which gives it warm and spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that pair beautifully with the chocolate’s vanilla, cherry and orange flavours.
Lindt Excellence 78% Cacao Dark Chocolate + Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot
The savoury nutty notes and high percentage of cacao in this bar are perfectly balanced with the fruit-forward flavour of this Merlot, which contains chocolate and intense berry aromas, and silky tannins.
Lindt Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate + Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Noir
The heat of the chili pairs well with this Pinot Noir’s notes of black cherry, vanilla and brown sugar, which are further enhanced by the chocolate’s delicious buttery flavour.
If you and your friends prefer spirits or beer to wine, offer a whisky, tequila or beer pairing option—all three go exceptionally well with dark chocolate.
TIP 2: Create tasting cards
Sometimes people can be intimidated to talk about wine, and tasting cards may help guests identify flavours and aromas. It will also help provide context as to why you have chosen these pairings.
Download our printable templates featuring chocolate and wine tasting notes, as well as tasting tips.
TIP 3: Prep the pairing station
There’s something about pouring your own glass of wine that instantly makes you feel at home, so set out your opened wine bottles that way guests can serve themselves. Letting your wine breathe is also a must, but the amount of time depends on the vintage: older bottles need less aeration as they are quickly affected by oxidation, whereas younger wines need around 20 minutes for the flavours to open up. As a palate cleanser, try iced water with neutralizing mint sprigs and cucumber.
Once the bar is set up, remove chocolate from packaging and arrange Lindt Excellence diamonds on plates directly in front of their partner wine.
TIP 4: Style the scene and set out snacks
Incorporating food and herbs into your decor is not only beautiful, but also less wasteful than using cut flowers. Arrange fresh items like tangerines and sprigs of rosemary on your table.
For some additional bites, try Pecorino Romano drizzled with honey or Grey Owl goat’s cheese and salty Marcona almonds. Then for charcuterie, set out an easy-to-eat Bresaola, or a saucisson sec with fennel. Just steer clear of pickled items – the vinegar will affect how the wine tastes.
TIP 5: Make a pairing summary sheet
As a parting gift for your guests, create a document featuring all the chocolate and wine pairing suggestions and flavour notes for everyone to take with them, that way guests can recreate their favourite pairing at home.