In my mind, chocolate cake is one of the great comfort foods. And a ridiculously large slice goes great with a glass (or two) of wine. Sure, this could be where I tell you to grab a bottle of Vintage Port from your cellar. If you’re feeling hedonistic, pull the cork on that 2000 Dow’s Vintage Port. A lot of us are feeling more budget-conscious, though.
If we’re following the general rule of thumb, as you’ll learn from our Food & Wine Pairing online course, the wine should be as sweet as the cake. The obvious choice is to stick with a fortified red wine. There’s great value to be found in Late Bottled Vintage Ports (like this 2012 Dow’s LBV), but we can also look outside the Douro to Maury or Banyuls (like this Grenache-based Vin Doux Naturel from Chapoutier).
Let’s face it, though: unless you’re Lord Grantham, it’s not every day you open a bottle of fortified wine. That’s why I generally favour a bold, fruit-forward New World red wine. These wines often have a perception of sweetness from a high level of fruit ripeness, balancing the sweetness of the cake. Plus, ripe, dark fruits just work with chocolate. For example, jammy blackberry or black cherry flavours in a wine will act like a dollop of compote on your chocolate cake.
In my experience, soft, plush red wines work best because they match the airy texture of a good chocolate cake. Your frosting isn’t gritty, so why would your wine be? Put the Cabernet away and think about reaching for a Merlot or Zinfandel, instead. These varieties typically aren’t overly tannic while still having the dark-berried fruit that we’re after. You can find excellent Napa Merlot for a fraction of the cost of a Napa Cab (like this 2016 Freemark Abbey Merlot), while top notch, Sonoma Zinfandel continues to be a steal (like this 2018 Seghesio Zindandel).
So, cut yourself a large slice of chocolate cake. Pour yourself a large glass of Merlot or Zinfandel. And put on Netflix. Guilt free.