Chocolate can be a tricky customer when it comes to matching wines, but it’s certainly not a no-go area. Believe me, after years of selfless testing, I’ve come up with winning combinations (below) for chocolate in all its forms. If you’re looking for pairings of your own, keep two things in mind. Firstly, even when it’s dark/bitter with a high cocoa percentage, chocolate is sweet. Secondly, it has a texture that coats your taste buds, so you need wines that can power through it. Sweet wines predominate – in fact, very sweet wines – but they can be white, golden or red, and there are a few dry reds that also make the cut.
The sweetness of Hungary’s legendary sweet wine is measured in puttonyos. For chocolate, you need 5 or 6 (4 is not sweet enough), but once you’re in the right puttonyos zone, you’ll find Tokaji is almost failsafe.
Try with chocolate flavoured with coffee, rum, nuts, chestnut, citrus fruit or Earl Grey tea.
Drink: Royal Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2009 (50cl), £21.50 The Wine Society; £23.95, slurp.co.uk
Late Bottled Vintage Port
Powerful, sweet, fortified red wine (aka LBV).
Try with chocolate flavoured with berry fruits, mint, brandy, whisky or sloe gin.
Drink: Berry Bros & Rudd Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, by Quinta do Noval, £16.95, Berry Bros & Rudd
Ten Year Old Tawny Port
Sweet, nutty, wood-matured port that is lighter in style (and colour) than Late Bottled Vintage.
Try with chocolate flavoured with nuts, raisins, spices or light coffee, and with milk chocolate
Drink: Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port, £15, Sainsbury’s; £16, Waitrose
Maury, Banyuls or red Rivesaltes
Sweet, fortified, red Grenache – France’s answer to port, but less tannic. Can be younger and fruitier (more like LBV) or aged to a more woody, raisiny, rancio style.
Try with chocolate flavoured with berry fruits, figs or spices.
Drink: Mas Amiel Maury 2013 (37.5cl) £20.95, Lea & Sandeman
Pedro Ximénez, or other sweet sherry
Aka PX, ultra-sweet, raisiny, syrupy, mature, fortified brown wine from Spain. Suits the sweetest, heaviest, densest chocolate puddings.
Try with chocolate flavoured with honeycomb, toffee, ginger, cinnamon, raisins, almond, rum or coffee
Drink: Barbadillo Pedro Ximénez Sherry, £10.99, Adnams; £11.95, slurp.co.uk
Australian Liqueur Muscat
Lusciously sweet, viscous, oak-matured, brown fortified wine from Australia, mostly from Rutherglen. Takes the richest puddings, truffles and chocolate ice cream in its stride.
Try with chocolate flavoured with caramel, coffee, vanilla, ginger or chilli.
Drink: Campbells Rutherglen Muscat (37.5cl), £12.49 Waitrose
No surprise that the Orange Muscat grape has a natural orange aroma and is good with orange-infused chocolate confections.
Try with chocolate flavoured with orange, spices such as cardamom and coriander, or chilli.
Drink: Essencia Orange Muscat 2013 (37.5cl), £10.99 for 37.5cl, Majestic
The rose-scented Black Muscat grape is rare, but worth tracking down.
Try with chocolate flavoured with black cherry, raspberry, blackcurrant, rose, violet or sloe gin.
Drink: Elysium Black Muscat 2014 (37.5cl), £10.99, Majestic
Muscat of Samos, or other sweet wine from Greece/Crete
Very sweet, honeyed
Try with chocolate flavoured with orange, almond or raisins.
Drink: Anthemis Samos Muscat 2007 (37.5cl), £6.95, The Wine Society
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Sweet, French, fortified Muscat.
Try with chocolate flavoured with ginger or cinnamon and with white chocolate.
Drink: Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2013, £18.95, Berry Bros & Rudd
Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec, California Merlot, or other dry but full, soft red
Chocolate is anathema to most dry wines, but ripe, fruity, fleshy, dry reds can work, especially with plain chocolate.
Try with dark chocolate bars (70% cocoa or more), including with sea salt, chilli or mint.
Drink: Viano Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Contra Costa County, California, £14.95, The Vintner
All photographs by Joanna Simon