How to Host a Chocolate and Wine Tasting/Pairing Event
Tips for the Perfect Party
Chocolate, wine, and close friends, what more could you want? Check out some tips below to host your own party – follow these simple pointers and your casual get together will become the toast of the town!
Tip 1: Have Pairings Ready in Advance
When hosting your own pairing party, it is vital to make a positive ‘first impression’ with your guests. By virtue of prepping wine and chocolate ahead of time, your guests will be able to easily follow your guidelines for a great tasting experience. A well-done wine and chocolate pairing is fun, educational and usually ends up with some spirited conversation and a good time for all. To keep things moving smoothly, have a plan in place for which wine you are pairing with which each chocolate in advance. Invariably, your guests will do some experimenting with other combinations and that’s great. This is a very subjective experience and it’s important to keep things casual and to know that there are no “wrong” answers or pairings. Not sure where to start? Check out our suggested wine/chocolate pairings below.
Tip 2: Use The Aroma Wheel and Tasting Cards
Let’s be honest, noticing specific aromas and flavor profiles takes time to develop. Beginners may be uncertain what flavors they are noticing, and might even be a little intimidated to assume or ‘guess’ what flavors and aromas they are noticing up front. By presenting an aroma wheel and tasting cards ahead of time (available below), it will help establish a common language for descriptions and guests will likely feel more comfortable trying to identify and write down their initial thoughts to share, discuss, and then reflect on. Tasting cards facilitate the process by helping to identify flavors/aromas, as well as providing context as to why you have chosen these pairings (adding some notes ahead of time on how/why you chose those parings will help provide context).
Tip 3: Stage and Prepare the Pairing Station
Leave wine out and open for guests to pour themselves. There is something about pouring your own glass of wine that creates a more relaxed environment, so prep your station for self-service. It’s also important to provide a palate cleanser between each pairing/tasting. Water crackers or plain dry crackers + iced water are recommended to fully remove all residual taste from your mouth in between pairings.
When the tasting area is staged, lay out your chocolate; small bowls or plates work well, and be sure to label the different varieties being presented. You will also want to serve it in pre-portioned sizes (chips, chunks or broken pieces) appropriate to the size of the gathering.
Tip 4: Set the Scene, Establish the Environment
Presentation is key! Set the stage and style the scene. When it comes to entertaining, everyone has their own style. Incorporate the memory you are seeking to create. Pairing can stand alone as an event or be matched with virtually any theme you can imagine, so provide decor, food, and an overall experience in keeping with your own personal style. This will allow you to be at your most comfortable and that comfort in turn will emanate to your guests. Casual comfort will help keep things light and fun, which will translate into a relaxed and successful event. Looking for snack pairing suggestions? Our savory snack x chocolate guide is coming soon!
To keep things flowing smoothly and prepare for some initial “shyness” offering opinions, have some softball questions at the ready, or some facts about wine and chocolate and their respective regions (plenty available on this site) and you’ll be surprised how quickly folks will pipe in to offer a story about the winery or chocolate factory tour they took on a great vacation!
Tip 5: Actually Tasting
Alright, “How do I pair chocolate and wine tho?”
Start by ‘priming’ your palate with a small sip of wine. When complete, place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue, and let it melt in your mouth. Ideally, do not chew. You want the chocolate flavors to develop as the product melts throughout your mouth. Once the chocolate is almost fully consumed take a larger sip of wine, and focus on whether the wine favors the taste of the chocolate, if the chocolate ‘brings out’ the wine, both or neither – you be the judge!
On your tasting notes/pairing card, write down your initial thoughts. Some questions to keep in mind: Do you notice any subtle flavor notes? Is the pairing too acidic? How are the tannin’s in your mouth? Does the pairing enhance, just the wine, just the chocolate or both? Conversely, does the pairing negatively impact the wine, the chocolate or both? Flavor is a powerful, but very subjective tool.
Once you jot down your notes, discuss with the others at the party! And let’s not forget: every pairing is subjective – not everyone is going to agree, or like every pairing. It’s all about having a fun and memorable group experience, and an expedition into the vast world of pairing wine and chocolate to help identify your favorites!
Tip 6: Summary Sheet
Leave your guests with a parting gift! If it’s too difficult to part with the remaining chocolate and wine, make sure your guests take home their pairing notes! In doing so they can recreate something similar and host YOU next time around! Get out the calendar and schedule their next event!
We hope this guide is helpful as a beginners guide to get you started – it’s all about creating a casual, memorable experience and finding your favorite pairings!