Friday, September 05, 2014

Pairing Chocolate with Champagne, Wine, and Beer

(updated 3/9/2022) My favorite treat when I need a pick me up or when I'm celebrating is chocolate, usually paired with one of my favorite red wines: a Pinot Noir or a Zinfandel. So, when I had the opportunity to attend a wine and chocolate tasting a few years ago at the See's Candies at Church and Market Street (this location has since closed) I jumped at the chance.

Making Time to Indulge with See's Candies


What would you pair with your chocolate?

At the tasting, we sampled See's Candies with Champagne, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, and Stout. For me, the most surprising pairing was a Muscat Canelli with a Key Lime Truffle. But that wasn't my favorite; read on to discover the obvious pairing I couldn't believe I'd never tried.

Dark Chocolate Bordeaux, Mocha, and Butter Cream See's Candies


Being raised just up the hill from See's Candies' South San Francisco facility, I've always preferred See's Candies to almost anything else when it comes to chocolate. (My favorite commercial holiday was Easter because it meant my favorite See's Candies, Chocolate Butters and Bordeauxes, were available in sizes as larger than my fists.) So when I was invited to a wine pairing at a See's Candies shoppe just a few blocks away in The Mission I jumped at the chance.

Before you open a bottle of wine and start inhaling your favorite See's chocolates, know that there are a lot of varietals, but not all of them lend themselves to being paired with sweets. And, not all chocolates pair with a varietal that should work with a dessert.


In a pairing, you're looking for a balance of acidity to sweetness. It's the acidity of the wine that makes or breaks your pairing. Typically, the sweeter your dessert, the higher acidity in your wine you're looking for.

If you want to wow your friends with your dessert pairings, consider these characteristics:

  1. cocoa solids. The main difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate is the percentage of cocoa solids they contain. Dark chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids; milk chocolate contains nearly 10% cocoa solids. With higher cocoa solids, you want a big wine with an intense flavor (not a fruit-focused wine, but one with tannins) but you don't want too dry or you'll have a bitter finish. Cocoa solids are why some chocolate and cabernet pairings leave you shaking your head in dismay.
  2. fat content. When your chocolate is inside a dessert, you need to look past cocoa solids to the fat content of your treat. The simple rule is the more fat in your dessert, the more tannins you need in your wine; the bitterness of the tannins softens the fat and enhances the other flavors in your dessert.
  3. salt content. Something else to consider with your dessert is how salty it is like salted caramel. To pair wines with salty desserts, look for sweeter wines.
  4. residual sugar. Wines range from dry (1% sweetness or 10 g/l residual sugar) to semi-sweet (around and more than 3%) to noticeably sweet (above 5%) to dessert (between 7 to 9%). If you've got a dry wine you want chocolate with little to no cocoa, like white chocolate and some milk chocolates.


A few other resources for understanding the basics of pairing wines with desserts that I recommend are:



If you're serving multiple pairings, you'll want to advise your guests on the order in which they should try them. Just like wine tastings where you progress from light-bodied wines to more full-bodied wines, the same is true for dessert pairings: sparkling first, whites before reds, and then dessert wines (you can read more about the proper wine tasting order at Glass Half Full).

champagne with raspberry truffle

Champagne and raspberry are a classic combination. But, not all champagne works with dessert. Skip your favorite dry champagnes. Instead, you'll want to look for a demi-sec (medium dry) or sweet champagne if you're pairing with candy. Check out "The Guide to the Good Life" for a list of the best Demi-Sec Champagnes.

See's Candies Raspberry Truffles


See's has two raspberry-flavored chocolates: Raspberry Cream and Raspberry Truffle. While you might think you could enjoy a Raspberry Cream in place of the Raspberry Truffle, you'd be wrong. You want a subtle raspberry flavor. The in-your-face raspberry of See's Raspberry Cream overpowers the sparkling wine. Most raspberries you find in grocery stores are slightly under ripe which means they tend to be a little tart--a counter to the sweetness of your demi-sec champagne.

dark chocolate with almonds and merlot

Another classic pairing that I frequently enjoy was presented: dark chocolate with Merlot. Having only ducked into See's Candies stores to grab a few bites of my favorites (Milk and Dark Chocolate Butters, Dark Chocolate Mocha, and Milk and Dark Chocolate Bordeauxes if you're ever inclined to treat me to some) and being bombarded with See's Candies Milk Chocolate Bars during fundraising season, I didn't know See's Candies had dark chocolate bars. You can't go wrong with this pairing.


My Favorite See's Candies Mocha Chocolate Butter and Bordeaux


peanut brittle with guinness stout

I've never been much of a peanut brittle fan, but this pairing had me thinking differently. I'd always enjoyed the chocolate undertones in Guinness Stout and regularly choose porters when picking out beers, so now it seems obvious that Guinness would be the perfect dessert drink.

In all honesty, the pairing of peanut brittle with Guinness was the one I most dubious about and almost didn't try. But, boy am I glad I did! The Guinness softened the sweetness of the peanut brittle and highlighted more of the salty crunch of the peanuts. If you're more of a savory than sweets person, I'd definitely give this pairing a try.

Guinness Stout Paired with See's Candies Peanut Brittle


muscat canelli with key lime truffles, scotchmallow, and raspberry cream

My favorite pairing of the night was the Raspberry Cream with the Ceago Muscat Canelli. I also really enjoyed the Key Lime Truffle with the Muscat. What made these pairings work for me was the tartness of the raspberry and the lime. (I don't like ScotchMallows so I skipped this particular pairing.)

Muscat Cannelli with Key Lime Truffles, ScotchMallow, and Raspberry Cream

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Disclosure: My husband and I attended a complimentary wine and chocolate pairing event at See's Candy to celebrate the opening of the new store and received gift bags with two pounds of See's Candy, two boxes of peanut brittle, and two boxes of lollypops. All opinions presented are my own.