Chocolate and naturally sweet wines are a perfect match

  • Food News
  • Saturday, 31 Oct 2015

What can we drink to accompany a chocolate treat? Apart from a few exceptions, red wines do not pair well with the dark stuff, as the tannins and cacao are not palate allies. The simplest choice for an accompaniment is naturally sweet wines. Here's what you need to know.

It's no coincidence that the Paris Chocolate Fair is hosting winegrowers from Roussillon in France. Their sunny region is ideal for producing naturally sweet French wines (also known as "vins doux naturels" and fortified wines) which have aromas of cocoa, torrefaction and candied fruit. In other words, they contain chocolate flavors. Roussillon is abundant in naturally sweet wines, but is not the only region which produces it. The Rhône valley is famous for its Muscat de Beaume-de-Venise and Corsica has its renowned Muscat du Cap-Corse. Because of their acidity, rosé wine and champagne are not the best options.

What is naturally sweet wine? 

To make naturally sweet wine, winegrowers use a method called "mutage". To halt the fermentation of the wine, they add neutral grape spirit at a volume of around 5-10%, which means that some of the grape's natural sweetness is retained. That is why these wines have a smooth and very distinctive taste. This method is also the reason for the wine's high alcohol content.

There are many different naturally sweet wines, reflecting the variety of wine-producing areas, each of which gives the wine its character and typical features. And a lot depends on when the winegrower decides to add the neutral grape spirit. The result is a vast aromatic range for wine lovers who decide to opt for a naturally sweet wine to go with their favourite chocolate treat.

The Banyuls wine-growing area is divided into terraces. Photo: Banyuls
The Banyuls wine-growing area is divided into terraces. Photo: Banyuls

Banyuls wine

In the Eastern Pyrenees, the seaside town of Banyuls has given its name to a renowned natural sweet wine. Grenache noir, a grape variety which is typical of the Roussillon naturally sweet wines, makes up 50% of this wine, and up to 75% of the Banyuls Grand Cru which is matured for at least 30 months. There are different styles of Banyuls: "rimage" means it is matured for at least a year, and the "rancio" designation is linked to oxidative characteristics in the wine which give it its golden color and its taste.

Aromas: candied fruit, figs, prune, notes of torrefaction

Banyuls Grand Cru with chocolate: a marriage made in heaven. Photo: patronestaff/
Banyuls Grand Cru with chocolate: a marriage made in heaven. Photo:

Maury wine

In the Eastern Pyrenees, around the villages of Maury and Tautavel, a small wine-growing area produces the powerful, highly aromatic Maury wines. The wine growers use a variety of grapes – grenache noir, but also carignan and syrah. There are several types of Maury wine: grenat, tuilé, ambré, rancio and hors d'âge. These wines with the hors d'âge designation are complex and memorable. They are aged for a minimum of five years in an oxidative environment. 

Aromas: dark fruits for the grenat designation, cocoa and coffee for the tuilé style

Rivesaltes wine

Rivesaltes wine takes its name from a small Eastern Pyrenees town and covers the biggest wine-growing area in Roussillon, bearing in mind that there is also a wine called Muscat-de-Rivesaltes which is produced over an even larger area. Rivesaltes is different from the other naturally sweet wines in the region because of its particular natural environment. The wine is made from a variety of grapes: grenache noir, grenache gris, grenache blanc, malvoisie and macabeo. It draws its strength from the three rivers which cross the land: the Agly, the Têt and the Tech. Rivesaltes wine can be ambré, meaning it has been aged in an oxidative environment for a minimum of two years. The wine is designated tuilé when it has been in contact with the air for at least two years. It is also available in the grenat and hors d'âge styles. 

Aromas: vanilla, cooked cherry, candied orange, gingerbread and honey for the white wine, cherry and blackberries for the red wine



Chocolate also pairs perfectly with port. This famous Portuguese drink is a sweet wine produced along the river Douro, which is also the name of the mythical wine-growing area where oenophiles can be found on port-tasting and cellar-visiting tourist trips. Port can be categorised as vintage, meaning that it is from a specific year and just one grape variety. Mature ports, meaning over 15 years old, are a very rich and complex experience for the nose and palate, with aromas of cocoa, coffee and prune. When vintage ports are blended they are known as tawny ports. Conversely, ruby ports are young and have kept all their fruity flavour. – AFP Relaxnews

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