Pairing chocolate and wine isn't as straightforward as it might seem. And as a Whole Foods staffer and wine department assistant specialty team leader at the Dublin location, Dana Stanley knows the nuances of both. The key, she said, is to be sure the wine is perceived as sweeter than the chocolate.

If chocolate-covered strawberries and some bubbly are in your plans this weekend, Dana Stanley has a few secrets to share.

Pairing chocolate and wine isn't as straightforward as it might seem. And as a Whole Foods staffer and wine department assistant specialty team leader at the Dublin location, Stanley knows the nuances of both. The key, she said, is to be sure the wine is perceived as sweeter than the chocolate.

"It doesn't necessarily need to be sweeter than the chocolate, but people need to think it is," said Stanley, a trained chef who used to host wine-and-chocolate tastings every Valentine's Day.

Also think about the weight or acidity of the wine, which should be strong enough to cut through the chocolate, and bubbles or tannins that clean the palette. Pairing similar flavors is another good idea to keep in mind.


White chocolate

Mumm Napa Cuve M (non-vintage)

Region: Napa Valley

Cost: $20, sale

Flavors: peach, pear and creamy caramel

Dana Stanley's advice: "What's really nice about white chocolate is that it's really buttery, so it lends itself well to wines that have good acidity."

Also consider: Riesling, Gevertztraminer, dessert wines or a demi-sec sparkling


Milk chocolate

Penfolds Club tawny port (non-vintage)

Region: South Austria

Cost: $10, sale

Flavors: nutty and smoky, with spicy fruits and toffee

Dana Stanley's advice: "It has a lot of nuttiness to it, and a lot of times you'll have chocolate that's mixed with things - hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, caramel."

Also consider: experimenting with a juicy, fruity pinot noir or merlot


Semi-sweet chocolate

Banfi Rosa Regale (2007)

Region: Northwest Italy

Cost: $22, sale

Flavors: raspberries and chocolate liqueur

Dana Stanley's advice: "This wine is just insanely delicious. It's perfect for chocolate-covered strawberries; it has this great effervescence to it and it's very light."

Also consider: ruby port, juicy California cabernet


Bittersweet chocolate

Green Bridge zinfandel (2007)

Region: Pasa Robles, California

Cost: $9

Flavors: dark berries, with an underlying spiciness

Dana Stanley's advice: "Chocolate bars with cayenne pepper or spice in them, they're really, really popular. And that zip this wine has just goes really well with dark chocolate."

Also consider: shiraz, Spanish Grenache