Sometimes, a wine pairing seems to bend all the rules.
With a chocolate producer close to our wine stand at an event, I had to explore and decided to nibble on some dark chocolate to see if it paired with our wines. It was a delight to discover that it pairs well with our UMAMU Estate Shiraz from the Margaret River!
It surprised me because of the ‘sweeter than sweet rule’ of wine pairing. Which is, your wine should always be sweeter than the food you’re pairing it with.
Our Shiraz from the Margaret River is dry; but the chocolate I paired it with contained sweetness.
I wanted to dig a little deeper into why shiraz and dark chocolate make such a great pairing.
- Firstly, to encourage you to explore your palate and constantly surprise yourself with new wine pairings.
- Secondly, so that I can enjoy a Shiraz and dark chocolate wine pairing whenever I fancy.
Let’s jump in!
Shiraz – a fruit-forward, Australian wine
Shiraz is often praised for one key characteristic: antioxidants.
Shiraz is known to science as one of the top three wine grapes grown in Australia with the highest levels of antioxidants – alongside Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The Shiraz wine grape contains a particularly high quantity of the antioxidant known as resveratrol.
The Australian ‘Wine Doctor’ Phillip Norrie makes what he calls the world’s ‘healthiest wine’ with 15-20 times the normal resveratrol content of red wine. But if you don’t have one of Phillip Norrie’s bottles to hand, he specifically recommends Shiraz as a healthy option for red wine drinkers.
So what do these antioxidants mean for a wine pairing?
These compounds in Australian-grown Shiraz give it a fruit-forward flavour profile.
Our Shiraz 2019 from the Margaret River has the following flavour profile:
- Nose: Dark berry fruits and floral notes spiced with hints of peppercorn, red licorice strap and toasty oak influences.
- Palate: A full-bodied wine, offering ample depth with plenty of ripe forest fruits, redcurrants and spice. The jubey fruit and approachable tannins combine to produce a generous wine with a supple structure and a lovely persistence of flavour.
Other fruity flavours commonly noted in Shiraz wines include:
- Dark fruit jams
- Red cherry
- Dark cherry
- Black raspberry
- Açaí berry
- Dried cranberry
Compare this with flavour with our 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon:
- Nose: Leafy, plum & mulberry.
- Palate: Juicy with ripe red plums, silky with subtle tannins, good length with a robust finish.
What’s the right chocolate to pair with Shiraz?
Let me clarify something.
The chocolate that paired so well with our UMAMU Estate Shiraz was not any old chocolate.
It was a bar of dark chocolate – probably 70%.
According to this fascinating blog on chocolate and wine pairing from experts Rebecca Lamont, Melanie Reeve and Micah Carr-Hill, I hit the chocolate sweet spot for Shiraz.
Here’s what they had to say about the perfect wine to pair with dark chocolate:
“For chocolate purists, chocolate with a high cocoa content (at least 70%) is best with a medium to full bodied red wine that will balance the intensity. Australian Shiraz from the Barossa valley has a rich, dark, fruity flavour that will complement the bitter notes in the chocolate.”
What’s interesting is they choose total different wines for different types of chocolate.
Check out their following wine and chocolate examples:
- White chocolate and sparkling wine (white chocolate is too sweet for Shiraz). I can imagine this working and am going to try it out!
- Chilli chocolate and Rioja (too spicy and exotic for Shiraz)
- Orange chocolate and dessert wine (too sweet and fruity for Shiraz)
- Milk chocolate and port or Madeira wine (too sweet for Shiraz)
What’s even more interesting is how the wine and chocolate experts specifically talk about Australia Shiraz – rather than the European cousin commonly referred to as Syrah or another varietal called Petite Syrah (a cross between Syrah and Peloursin grapes).
They said that Syrah is ‘too tannic’ for pairing with chocolate. I.e. it can be too bitter for pairing with bitter, dark chocolate flavours.
However red wine and dark choc seem to work synergistically - once the brain has detected some bitterness and astringency it seems to act as a palate cleanser and reset to allow the detection of more flavours.
Some examples of how chocolatiers use Shiraz in their creations
I thought this was fascinating: the Australian website for Lindt carries a page on pairing their chocolates with red wine.
Can you guess what they suggest you pair with their 70% dark chocolate?
You got it – Shiraz!
But there’s more.
Daintree Estates have gone further to create a ‘wine infused dark milk chocolate’.
Can you guess what wine they chose to infuse the chocolate with?
You nailed it – Shiraz yet again!
Here’s another interesting example: the Rocland Estate winery in Barossa Valley, South Australia, have a range of Shiraz wines they’ve gone and called ‘The Chocolate Box’.
The range is so-called for the chocolate tasting notes already present in their South Australian Shiraz vintages.
A Shiraz and chocolate wine pairing recipe
At UMAMU Estate we are always releasing wine pairing recipes to help you explore and expand your palate.
The recipe uses our Margaret River Shiraz as well as dark chocolate, creating a rich and fruit-forward sauce that pairs magically with a well-seasoned rack of lamb.
Here are two Margaret River Shiraz vintages we currently have stocked in our online wine store: