Chocolate + Wine = Divine
Chocolate and wine are more similar than one might think. For example, chocolate and wine are both fermented, can be analyzed for tasting notes and other sensory descriptors like tannins, and are produced worldwide. With so many different styles and origins of wine and chocolate, tasters can have a lot of fun deciphering which kinds of wines and chocolates best pair together to create a divine sensory experience.
On February 7, 2023, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science hosted Sips and Bites: Wine & Chocolate Pairing. The panel, moderated by director Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, featured a rockstar lineup and included all UC Davis alumni. Gus Zhu, the first Chinese Master of Wine, shared his wine expertise with the audience. Meanwhile, Thalia Hohenthal, Guittard Chocolate Company’s Technical Service Director, and Rebecca Kuehn, Guittard’s R&D Director, educated the audience on the world of chocolate.
A chocolate and wine class would only be complete with a tasting! The audience patiently waited to taste once they had gleaned new wine and chocolate knowledge. Guittard generously provided delicious chocolates for the audience to sample, and they received four different styles of wine to mix and match with their chocolates. The wines included a sweet Riesling, a Sauternes, an Australian red blend, and a ruby Port. The chocolates included blends as well as single origins from Madagascar, Peru, and Hawaii and ranged from 38% milk chocolate to 74% dark chocolate.
Gus Zhu instructed the attendees on how to experience the wines. He recommended tasting as they would at home, reminding the audience of the most critical question to ask while sipping: do you like it? Thalia Hohenthal then instructed the audience on how to taste chocolates properly. Her recommendation was to let the chocolate morsel sit on the tongue and start to dissolve before biting and enjoying how its flavors burst in your mouth. Hohenthal, a Candy Hall of Fame inductee, even shared her impressively detailed tasting notes for each chocolate, commenting on attributes such as tropical aromas in the Hawaiian chocolate and balanced tannins in the dark chocolate.
Dr. Waterhouse asked attendees to share their favorite wine pairing as the audience tasted each Guittard chocolate. Each person had a different preference, including the panel! The takeaway is that there is no right or wrong pairing; the best pairing is the one you enjoy. Plus, on the journey to your own “aha” moment and perfect pairing, there is so much fun in the experience and experimentation (a delicious excuse to enjoy more wine and chocolate!).
Kendal Koorenny is a current master’s student in the viticulture and enology program at UC Davis. She adores food, wine, and science and writing about it all! When she is not in class or working, you can find Kendal reading a book, crafting a new cocktail recipe, or spending time with her kitten.