Restaurant Staff Poring Serving Red Wine to Customers

As February approaches, there is one burning question on the minds of every couple making plans for Feb. 14: What are we going to do on Valentine’s Day? For those opting for a romantic dinner at their favorite restaurant, couples will be on the hunt for the perfect destination to celebrate another year of love. Whether it’s a couple’s first Valentine’s Day together, or their twentieth, the key to winning them over is to create an experience they’ll never forget.

Well-seasoned foodies know that champagne is ideal for a tray of fresh oysters and a merlot pairs well with filet mignon, but what about dessert? For food lovers that want all three courses paired with a perfect vino, look no further than the quintessential Valentine’s Day dessert pairing: wine and chocolate.

The Science Behind Wine and Chocolate Pairings

When it comes to pairing wine and chocolate, science plays a significant role. By understanding the basic chemistry of how red wine and cacao work together to create a bittersweet experience, you’ll be able to pair chocolate desserts and wines like a pro.

1. The wine should be sweeter than the chocolate

If the chocolate in your pairing is sweeter than the wine, they will dominate the palate and result in a bitter-tasting wine.

2. Taste from mild to bold.

As with any tastings, you’ll want to serve your wine and chocolate pairings from mild to bold, which is an industry standard that helps avoid disrupting the taster’s palate.

3. Pay attention to subtle nuances.

Wine and chocolate packaging will traditionally include a short sensory description of the product. Making note of these flavors will help guide your pairings.

cocoa sensory wheel

How to Properly Taste Wine and Chocolate Pairings

Pairing chocolate with wine is a sensory experience. When tasted separate, chocolate and wine deliver exquisite flavors. When paired together, the flavor is intensified. That’s why it’s important to know exactly how to taste wine and chocolate together to get the most out of each sip and bite.

Here’s how to taste wine and chocolate pairings:

  1. Taste both the chocolate and wine individually.
  2. Take another piece of chocolate and savor the taste as it slowly melts in your mouth.
  3. When the last lingering notes of chocolate are all that remain, take a sip of wine.
  4. Hold the wine in your mouth, allowing it to coat you palate.

By following this process, you’ll notice the complex changes in taste as the wine mingles with the residual chocolate flavor.

Get a head start on your Valentine’s Day marketing with help from our Restaurant Marketing Guide.

Wine and Chocolate Pairings for Valentine’s Day

Leverage the wine list you already have and create a delectable tasting menu for Valentine’s Day that your customers will never forget.

Best Wine with Milk Chocolate

Pinot Noir for milk chocolate tastings will bring out the rich, creamy notes of the traditional chocolate.

Best Wine with Dark Chocolate

A bold Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with a bitter, dark chocolate.

Best Wine with White Chocolate

This delicate chocolate will pair best with a light, floral Moscato d’Asti.

Best Wine with Chocolate Cake

A medium-bodied Merlot will bring out the rich, buttery flavors of a chocolate cake.

Best Wine with Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Break out the bubbly and pair this Valentine’s Day classic with a flute of champagne.

Best Wine with Chocolate Mousse

A sweet, rich chocolate mousse will pair best with a syrupy Moscatel.

wine being poured on the table after waiter sold it to a customer.

How to Market Valentine’s Day Wine Pairings

As with any new addition to your menu, you need to market it correctly to your customers. That means you need to master a couple top marketing tactics: word-of-mouth and social media. In order to get the most out of the holiday and fill every table in your restaurant, making an impact through marketing has the opportunity to establish your business as a Valentine’s Day dessert destination.

Make the most of social media

You already know the deal: Social media is the most effective way to reach your audience online without compromising your bottom line. As Valentine’s Day approaches, start promotion as soon as possible. Nail down your pairings, create your menu, and start telling your followers about the sweet treats you have in store for Feb. 14.

Offer special tasting menu promotions

If your customers are indulging in a night out, use your wine and chocolate pairing menu as a part of a Valentine’s night promotion. Offer a special, low price for an appetizer, two entrees, and the pairing menu as a way to give customers a unique, prix fixe option on their special night.

Use your team to spread the word

Did you know that one of your best marketing tools is under your own roof? Set your servers up for success with a loose script that mentions the special Valentine’s day pairing menu and watch as your customers start booking reservations for their romantic night out.

Create different levels of tasting packages

Even though Valentine’s Day is usually a time where couples will indulge in a special meal, it’s important to keep your restaurant’s customer demographic in mind. When developing your wine and chocolate pairing menu, appeal to different types of customers by creating tiered levels of packages to suit every couple.

Create a wine and chocolate “to-go” kit

For couples that want to enjoy wine and chocolate pairings in the comfort of their own homes, create a to-go option. This can include three to five mini bottles of wine, different types of chocolate bars, and instructions for how to complete to tasting effectively.

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Written by   |  
Holly Everett is a five-year restaurant industry veteran turned small business marketing specialist. After working at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island throughout college, she entered the world of marketing where she led B2B marketing initiatives at companies focusing on growing small businesses. At Upserve, she integrates her passion for the restaurant industry and knowledge of the needs of small business owners to help make restaurants wildly successful.