With tension in the air and continued stay-at-home orders, self-care is a priority right now. That could mean keeping up your exercise routine or getting enough sleep, but it can also mean enjoying a glass of wine with rich, moan-worthy chocolate. But don’t uncork just any bottle! 

While marketing images often tout a picture of a bottle of wine with a heart-shaped box of chocolate, the combination is actually quite divisive among wine gurus. When it comes to wine and chocolate pairings, there are certainly some combinations to avoid (don’t even think about chasing a Cabernet with a square of dark), but there are also plenty of pairing options for when you want (or need) to treat yourself. 

Wine + chocolate 101 
First thing’s first: if you’ve got chocolate on your mind, avoid some reds altogether; both red wine and chocolate have a bitter element that can clash. In red wines, these bitter notes come from the tannins, which are particularly high in varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. Wines like these will taste bitter and thin if consumed with most chocolate. 

Along this line of thought, pair sweet with sweet. The taste of dessert wines will complement those heavenly sweet notes of chocolate. Finally, consider the flavors often paired with chocolate—such as strawberry, ginger, and mint. Wines with these flavor notes will play well with chocolate. 

 
 
 
 
 
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I’m dreaming of a white chocolate 
Of all chocolate varieties, vegan white chocolate such as iChoc White Vanilla is the most universally pleasant wine pairing. It works wonderfully with fruity, lightly sweet whites, and rosés. From Italy, look for bottles of Moscato d’Asti—a lightly sweet, sparkling dessert wine from the northern region. Its aromas tend to be a cross between a peachy fruit salad and a bunch of flowers. Michele Chiarlo’s Nivole Moscato is a standout bottle. 

Alsace, France also produces a number of white wines that pair well with white chocolate. The region’s Gewürztraminers are often a little sweet and full of lychee aromas, and the Pinot Gris are peachy and floral. Famille Hugel is a historic producer of high-quality wines in Alsace. All but one of its bottles—the Gentile—are vegan-friendly and widely available. 

Finally, we come to rosé wine. This variety works well with white chocolate because it shares compatible flavor notes such as strawberry and cranberry. Think of chewy, crispy cookies studded with white chocolate and cranberries or chocolate-covered-strawberries—it just works. Light rosés from the south of France are ideal for this pairing. An excellent vegan-friendly example is the Triennes rosé. It’s elegant, fruity, and refreshing—and it’s no surprise that it was created by some of France’s most famous winemakers.

 
 
 
 
 
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Milk chocolate can absolutely be done vegan 
The quality and popularity of vegan milk chocolate is on the rise, and our collection of bars is begging to be enjoyed with a glass of wine. Brands such as Taza’s Milk Classic can play nice with some light reds that are low in tannins. Look for ruby styles of Port which tend to be sweet, fruity, and high in alcohol. Both Sandeman and Croft—two famous and historic Port producers—make high-quality LBV (late bottled vintage) styles that are vegan-friendly. 

These Ports are aged for four to six years before bottling, giving them extra time to become more complex without adding much to the price tag. Beaujolais wines—made from the Gamay grape—also tend to be fruity and low in tannins. Ruet’s Cotes de Brouilly is a mouthwatering option. It’s exquisitely perfumed with blueberries and violets and packed with red fruits on the palate.

 
 
 
 
 
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Dark chocolate is what your life has been missing
Dark chocolate is the most intense and coincidentally the most bitter, which makes it slightly more difficult to pair with wine. However, the right pairing can be heavenly. Both Tawny Port and Madeira wines can work well with a square (or two) of dark. Tawny Port is a unique variety of Ruby wine that’s sweet, but instead of tasting fresh and fruity, it beckons flavor notes of earthy dried fruit and nuts. 

Niepoort’s Tawny Dee Port is a quality vegan example, and it comes in a whimsical bottle—its sister Port, Ruby Dum, is based on characters from Alice in Wonderland. Madeira is a nutty, spicy, high-alcohol style of wine made on the Portuguese island by the same name. The Henriques & Henriques 10-Year-Old Sercial Madeira is a lightly sweet, vegan-friendly bottle that will complement dark chocolate. The Broadbent Five-Year Reserve and Rainwater Madeiras are also both vegan-friendly. 

So pour yourself a generous glass, break off a few squares of your favorite vegan chocolate, and draw a vegan-friendly bubble bath. You deserve it. 

Sarah Phillips (@whatsarahdrinks) is a wine educator, writer, and marketer based in Miami but originally from the UK. 

Photo credit: Vegan Wines

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