This unexpected trio is an amazing way to turn up the Summer fun when you’re entertaining!

Once again we’re excited to kick-off Summer! It’s such a busy time with family and vacations and celebrations. If you’re like us, you want to visit with everyone – Relaxing with good food and close friends, there’s no better time.

For this month, we’re recommending a sweet little party idea to get everyone talking and comparing notes – how about chocolate, cheese, and wine tasting?!

This is easy and doesn’t take a lot of effort, just a little planning. A good place to start is lining up the wine and the chocolate – these 2 bold taste competitors can clash, or they can complement one another.

If you’re doing this after dinner as an “entertaining” dessert, then a good rule of thumb is to stick with a glass of sweet wine and don’t risk overwhelming palates with too much “bitter”.

If the whole point of the party is to have a tasting, then you can go with a wider variety of flavors. The experts at The Wisconsin CheeseMan suggest matching flavor intensities and picking your chocolates first, then follow these broad guidelines for pairing a wine:

  • Milk chocolate pairs well with pinot noir, merlot, port, and Madeira

  • Dark chocolates go with zinfandel, syrah/shiraz, port, and sherry

  • For white chocolate try ice wines, late-harvest rieslings, Moscato, and cream sherry

Now here are some of our own “pairing” tips for Chocolate & Cheese:

  • Keep it simple. Try offering samples of the same cheese with different Chocolate, or vice versa and serve the same chocolate with different cheeses. Or limit yourself to 6 or 8 pairs.

  • Milk chocolate is wonderful with sweet fresh cheeses such as ricotta and sweet buttery cheeses like brie.

  • Dark chocolates pair well with aged, more complex cheeses

  • Serve white chocolate with mellow cheeses. It’s usually creamy and sweeter than most dark or milk chocolates. This makes it a great choice to serve with creamy cheeses that also have a hint of sweetness

  • Some of the new, intense spicy chocolates (such as chocolate with chili flavors) pair well with sharp cheeses

  • If you're unsure what chocolates pair well with cheese, try it first with dark chocolate. Ensure that you're using a chocolate that is at least 55% to 60% cocoa solids. The high- cocoa content usually works with almost any cheese, but it tastes great with complex aged cheeses.

  • Pair crunchy chocolates or bark with a variety of cheeses. If serving chocolate barks or truffles that have fruit or nuts, you can easily taste them with different styles of cheeses. If you want a contrast in texture, pair them with semi-soft cheeses (like brie or soft blue cheese). Or you could build on the complexity of flavors by tasting them with sharp or aged cheeses like cheddar.

  • Consider presenting everything on a slate with fresh fruit. Or go crazy and combine the ingredients in grilled cheese and chocolate panini.

How to Taste Chocolate & Cheese:

  1. Pair from mild to medium to bold in flavor or from subtle to bold in intensity: For example, you could start with goat cheese and milk chocolate for a mild pairing and move towards aged cheddar and a dark truffle for a bold pairing at the end.

  2. Smell both the chocolate and the cheese first before tasting.

  3. Take a SMALL bite of cheese and then a SMALL bite of chocolate to start, chew some, then take another small bite of cheese.

  4. Discuss what you enjoy about the pairing and mention any flavors you pick up on. You can also talk about the texture, color, and finish of the pairing.

  5. Offer a palate cleanser, so your guests can really taste a variety of flavors. Set out crackers, water, or grapes to eat in between pairings of cheese and chocolate.

Here are some notes we took on our own experiences, to help you narrow down your selections. Please note, in selections that don't list a wine, another good rule of thumb is to find a wine you like paired with the cheese. In most instances, it will also work well with the chocolate:

Gouda Cheese:

  • Coffee-Flavored Chocolate: The bitter coffee flavor was a nice pairing with the sweet cheese

  • Aged Gouda was also very nice with an intense Dark Chocolate

Goat Cheese:

  • Milk Chocolate with dulce DeLeche–what a silky-smooth combo

  • Dark Chocolate with Fig Balsamic goat cheese was also delectable

Cheddar Cheese:

  • Many people describe cheddar cheese as “nutty,” which is probably why it paired so well with the nutty chocolate we sampled

  • Aged Cheddar with Granny Smith Apples and Dark Chocolate – classic!

  • Extra Sharp with 70% Dark Chocolate and Raspberry was poignant and balanced

Brie Cheese + Fruit-Filled Chocolate:

  • Whether it’s a berry or a citrus flavor, you can’t go wrong with super-sweet chocolate and the creamy Brie

  • Triple Crème Brie drizzled with melted dark chocolate and fresh strawberries, heavenly

  • Since brie cheese goes well with acidic and fruity notes, dark chocolate and brie are a perfect match.

Blue Cheese:

  • Dark Chocolate Truffle and Port Wine – bold and flavorful

Aged Parm:

  • Dark Chocolate with Oat Stout Beer, really? that’s what we said, then we tried it. Say no more

Gruyere Swiss:

  • Toasted Cashews and Milk Chocolate

Mixed milk Cheese (cow, sheep and goat milk):

  • White Chocolate and Cranberry or Cherry Chutney

Hot Habanero Cheese:

  • Opposites attract when pairing the furiously fiery & bold flavor of the Hot Habanero; this profile works best with Divine’s smooth milk chocolate. The sweetness of the chocolate nicely mellows the spiciness of the cheese, creating a pleasurable balance of flavors. It’s a truly satisfying pairing of sweet & savory.

Smokey Bacon Cheese:

  • To enhance the sizzling, smoky flavor everyone loves, Smoky Bacon works best with a bar boasting a high cocoa content. The luxuriously rich 85% Dark Chocolate fits the bill perfectly.

For those who missed our in-store June tastings at the O’Live A Little locations in South Windsor and Canton, CT, not to worry, we will be hosting similar events in the Fall and will let you know when they are scheduled.

In the meantime, here are the exact selections we sampled if you want to recreate them this Summer. You can find the cheese selections at either of our stores. A special thanks to our fellow sponsors, M&R Liquors and Pompfret Chocolates, when you can find the other items listed below:

  • Beemster XO Gouda with Coffee Triffle Square and Lacort Crianza Tempranillo

  • Honey Goat Gouda with Brigadeiro (dulce de leche, cocoa powder, cacao nibs) and Baus Family Chardonnay

  • Beechers Flagship cheddar with Bordeaux Cherry Balsamic Bon-Bon and Angels Landing Pinot Noir

  • Vacherousse D' Argental with Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bon-Bon and L'Aurore Cremant Rose

  • Arethusa Blue with Caramel Pecan Bon-Bon and Salvatore Cabarnet

  • Four Alarm Cheddar with Passion Fruit Bon-Bon and Rubus Zinfandel

  • Fourmage (four milk cheese) with White Chocolate Lavender Truffle Square and Second Growth Pinot Gris

  • Mango-Ginger Stilton with Dark & Milk Ganache Honey Bon-Bon

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