Champagne and Chocolate
Ah! Wine and chocolate. A classic pairing to woo willing lovers and celebrate joyful occasions with flagrant indulgence. Red wine and chocolate may be the go-to gift for date night, but Champagne and chocolate? That’s taking things to a whole new level of decadence. Before you start chilling down your bubbly, take a minute to learn more about the many ways to match up sparkling wine and chocolate.
How are Champagne and chocolate similar?
Sparkling wine, like chocolate, comes in different styles and price points. It’s easy to tell apart the sensory and quality differences between a chocolate bar from the supermarket checkout stand and one from an artisanal chocolatier. The two products, both called chocolate, are perhaps crafted from similar ingredients, but the final confection varies greatly. Anyone can tell the two chocolates are distinct when they take a bite.
This same takeaway applies to Sparkling Wine.
You can find a $5 bottle of sparkling wine readily available at most wine outlets, and your local specialty wine shop will likely carry a $200 Champagne. Both wines are made from grapes, true. But the sensory experience - how you appraise the wines - will be unique. Happily, most of us will be perfectly content with something in between the two extremes.
Keep this quality comparison in mind as you plan out your Champagne and chocolate pairing event. You may actually want to try setting up a tasting with inexpensive sparkling wine and mass-market chocolate alongside more luxury brands as a fun experiment. No judging here!
What chocolate goes with Champagne?
Pairing bubbles and chocolate may seem like a simple task, but the tricky part comes when trying to combine two explosive foods together in your mouth. Understanding the qualities in chocolate and wine can help you strategize your pairing plan.
Sparkling wine and chocolate are two powerhouse foods. We love chocolate because it boasts a silky, rich, bitter, and tannic flavor profile all at once, dominating our palates. Sparkling wine dances with acid, fruit, and bubbles that tickle and delight our senses. Both offer a unique flavor and texture experience that don’t necessarily complement each other.
Dark chocolate that’s 80 percent or higher can be difficult to pair with sparkling wine because of its low level of sweetness. When matched with a dry sparkling wine, the astringency in the chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa will stand out and could make dry Champagne taste bitter.
As a general rule, the best chocolate with Champagne will match styles. Dark chocolate pairs with dry sparkling wines. Look for the word ‘brut’ on a label. White and milk chocolate pair better with off-dry and sweet sparkling wines. Look for the words ‘sec’ or ‘doux’ on the bottle.
DIY Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Tasting Menu
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, gather friends for a sparkling wine and chocolate flight. Select 3-4 sparkline wines, including at least one Champagne. Below is a sample sparkling wine flight. Most large wine stores will carry all of these wines, so finding bottles should be relatively easy.
- Moscato d’Asti: Made from the Muscat grape, this wine is light, fresh, lower in alcohol, and bursts with aromas of lemon, orange blossom, honeysuckle and pear.
- Cava: Cava is Spain’s answer to Champagne. Cava blends together three unique and aromatic grapes: Xarel·lo, Parellada, and Macabeo. The growing region enjoys slightly warmer temperatures than Champagne, and these wines will be a little more fruit-forward and aromatic than traditional sparkling wine.
- Champagne or sparkling wine (brut/dry style): Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier, and 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.
- Champagne or sparkling wine (sec or doux/off-dry style): This off-dry style of traditional sparkling wine should taste sweeter and rounder in your mouth, perhaps with red apple instead of green apple, pastry, and biscuit.
Add your select assortment of chocolates.
Try to find styles with different levels of cocoa, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Better still, if you know a chocolate connoisseur, now’s the perfect opportunity to reach out and solicit their expertise. The world of chocolate mirrors that of wine in complexity with artisanal producers, free trade labels, and eccentric styles.
Once you have your ingredients, line up the chocolate and sparkling wine pairing. Go through the lighter chocolates and lighter wines first, saving the richer, heavier ones for last so that they don’t dominate the more delicate aromas.
If your chocolate menu doesn’t include any nuts or salted varieties, consider adding nuts or salted crackers on the side to help act as palate cleansers. These will cut through the acid of the wines and fat in the chocolate, resetting your taste buds as you sip and savor your way through your flight.
Take time to thoughtfully taste through the different wines to find that perfect “spoil yourself” combination. Remember, every palate is unique, and what one person enjoys may be different than someone else.
Bubbles and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
If you’re looking for a special romantic indulgence, then Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries are an absolute must. The fresh acidity in the strawberries interacts with the chocolate in a similar way as the acid in your wine. The chocolate compliments the berry’s zesty fruitiness. You’ll want to stick with a sparkling wine that has a little sweetness to it. Try the Moscato d’Asti from Italy. The bubbles make this playful wine perfect for a warm, sunny afternoon or cozy evening in. If you want to stay with a traditional sparkling wine, look for an off-dry style and those words ‘sec’ or ‘doux’ on the label.
For the truly adventurous, try a chocolate fondue night and let your guests sample a combination of chocolate covered fruits while tasting.
The Humble Chocolate Chip
Looking for a playful alternative to the Champagne and chocolate tradition? It may sound a little crazy, but chocolate chips may be just right for you. These are not chocolate chips as a finger food in a dainty dish next to your fluted glass, but chocolate chips in the glass itself.
This is a brilliant way to enjoy sparkling wine and chocolate together, as well as being a great conversation starter. Add 4-5 chocolate chips to your glass of sparkling wine and watch what happens! The CO2 lifts the little chips up to the surface of the glass, where the gas bubbles pop, and then the chips gracefully tumble back down, where they start the cycle all over again. A little something like a Ferris wheel, the chips will go round and round. If you’re looking for entertainment value and a touch of whimsy, sparkling wine and chocolate chips are a winning combo.
Chocolate – with a Twist
Don’t feel limited to only using chocolate bars or chocolate truffles with your sparkling wine experience. Do you have a killer chocolate brownie or chocolate chip cookie recipe? Add them to your pairing menu for a personalized touch. Just remember, if it’s a sweeter food, you’ll want to match it up with an off-dry bubbly.
Chocolate covered pretzels are another perfect way to combine salty and sweet. The Champagne’s high acid level cuts through the butterfat in the chocolate, but mellows in the mouth with the pretzel’s saltiness for a balanced experience.
Champagne Chocolate Truffles
While not exactly a drinkable delicacy, Champagne infused truffles skip the wine and food pairing altogether and get straight to the point. Chocolatiers craft Champagne truffles by mixing just the right amount of Champagne into a chocolate ganache. Too much, and the truffle collapses. Too little, and the chocolate dominates the wine’s delicate flavors. These Champagne-infused delicacies generally have around 4% alcohol. Look for specialty chocolate shops that carry luxury truffles. You can pair them with sparkling wine for a double dose of decadence!
Can you substitute sparkling wine for Champagne?
Yes! The word ‘Champagne’ is legally protected under international law and can only be used by sparkling wines coming out of the Champagne region in France. Wineries around the world make Champagne-style sparkling wine, but can’t use the protected ‘Champagne’ name on their labels. So, if you have access to a sparkling wine but not a Champagne, know that the term ‘sparkling’ has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the technicalities of international trade law. Remember: The reason for pairing bubbles and chocolate is indulgence, so play with what you have!
Let us help you!
If learning about Champagne and chocolate is leaving you thirsty for more, Gold Medal Wine Club offers two bespoke French Champagne and chocolate gift sets. Leave the pairing to us with Champagne and chocolate delivery to your door. Gold Medal Wine Club will send the finest imported French Champagne along with artisanal truffles in an organza gift bag with a personalized greeting card to your special someone.
If you’re looking for the complete experience, head over to our wine shop and check out the French Champagne, Accessories, & More Champagne and chocolate gift basket that includes everything you need for your bespoke sparkling wine experience. Sparkling wine and chocolate gifts capture a timeless expression of luxury and our French Champagne marries the purest winemaking traditions with a beautiful gift set perfect for any celebration.
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