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Matching wine and chocolate

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By Marco Giovanetti

I should have done this article for Valentines’ day since it is a chocolate oriented holiday. There is no need for that, since chocolate munching and wine can be done every day, no need for excuses!!!. And if you have been reading my columns for some time, you will know by now that i write according to what inspire me. So enough of the introduction and lets get it going with the column.

 

The concept of combining two of the most historically and most exciting  tastes on the planet, chocolate and wine, into one exquisite experience sounds simple but  that it will require some research to find combinations that bring out the positive in both partners to the match.  An unsuccessful match will leave you with a dry mouth from the wine and the chocolate will seem dull.

 

There is a difference of opinion concerning the wisdom of pairing wine with chocolate. Some sommeliers claim that the bitterness in the chocolate masks the tannins in the wine needed for the wine’s flavor to properly unfold but it is my opinion/experience (and more notably that of some very prominent chocolatiers) that combining wine and chocolate, if done with care, leads to an entire new realm of possibilities.  At the 2006 Chocolate Show in New York City (one of the two annual major events in the chocolate world,) wine infused truffles flavored with Cabernet, Red Zinfandel, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, were introduced with huge success.

 

If you are newly discovering the world of chocolate, you may want to develop your foundational understanding of the flavors and notes that can be found in chocolate before attempting to combine them with wine or other spirits.  Armed with that knowledge however, you are ready to begin combining.  There are two different ways to approach this:

1.- Attempt pairings where both partners offer similar notes (i.e. both with notes of peach, cherry, nut, caramel, etc.)

2.- Try for matches that contrast but compliment each other (for example, a chocolate with toffee notes can be enhanced by a tawny port with nutty undertones)

Each wine will have unique notes and personality based on the variety, vineyard, vintage and vintner.  This is also true for the chocolate (cacao content, sugar content, intensity, texture.)  The individual palate of the person is also a complicating factor; one person may experience notes of mango while another would swear to pineapple.  So much variation makes standard rules for pairing difficult to formulate.  Just remember that tasting should be about the fun of exploration, with your resolve fortified by the possibility of discovering a “match made in heaven.”   Below are some general suggestions/guidelines that may be of assistance to you in selecting combinations; just keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules.

 

The sweetness of the wine should be as great or even slightly greater than the specific chocolate or flight of chocolates you will taste with that wine.  It follows that chocolate with a low sugar content (bittersweet dark chocolate) will pair with a greater number of wines than a sweeter more delicate chocolate (white chocolates or milk chocolate.)

 

Remember that the “sweetness” of a wine is not only influenced by the sugar content (attributable to the grapes used to make the wine) but also by the alcohol content.  Alcohol itself is sweet to the taste and contributes to the overall “sweetness” of the wine.  “Fortified” wines (such as port) will have extra alcohol added to the wine.  If you are evaluating wines with similar sugar content, the one with the higher alcohol content will generally be the sweeter of the two.  On the other hand, the acidity of the wine (which gives it “tartness”) reduces the sweetness.  A very acidic wine will be difficult to match with a sweet chocolate.

 

The intensity of the wine should be considered in your pairing choice.  The more delicate chocolates should be matched with lighter wines while the stronger bittersweets should be paired with bold wines.  A good example is a bittersweet chocolate paired with a full-bodied California Zinfandel.

 

The sweeter and more full-bodied the wine, the more chocolate selections will work well with that particular wine selection.   However, try to avoid so called “dessert wines” because despite their generally higher sugar content, they also tend to have high acidity, giving them a tartness that makes it difficult to match with many sweet desserts.

Many thanks to Elisabeth Lebel from Oenopole l for the sample of Daumen Gigondas 2011.

 

Happy chocolate tasting and see you next week for more wine adventures!!!

 

Wines of the week:

 
1Domaine Nicolas Maillet Mâcon Verzé 2012. Code SAQ :  11634691. Price: $24.05
In the nose, aromas of stones, hummus with an underlying chalky and limey mineral feeling and nuances of a bed of oysters. Overall a very complex mineral nose. In addition nuances of green mangoes and peaches. In the mouth, medium body, round and wavy  with a good acidity. Flavors are yeasty with nuances of pear,granny smith apples and other green fruits. Delicious and savoury finale. It recalls brine, seashells and hay and is quite long and lingering. One of the best chardonnays at the SAQ for under $25.00 95\100. QPR.

Chocolate Match: Neuhaus Manon Choco Vanilla white chocolate truffles. Available at:  Le Chocolat Belge O&M: 514 697 6720

 

 

 
2Domaine Jean-Baptiste Sénat Mais Où Est Donc Ornicar 2011. Code SAQ:  11959372. Price: $24.60
 

In the nose, intense ripe and black fruit aromas with mineral scented licorice and garrigue nuances. In the mouth, full body with tight but velvety tannins. Flavors remind me of ripe and dry black fruits with roasted coffee beans and black pepper. Long finale with a pleasant bitter taste gives an overall freshness to the wine. To keep a few years. 92\100 QPR

Food Match: Dark chocolate Truffles from Geneviéve Gadbois. Available at the Atwater Market

 

 
3Jean-Paul Daumen Gigondas 2011. Code SAQ :  11818553. Price $36.00
Attractive nose of black fruits with lots of balsamic notes such as licorice, eucalyptus, aloe vera, rosemary with leather and smoke nuances. In the mouth, full body with incredible depth, texture and broad shouldered tannins. Complex flavors as well that remind me of garrigue, cocoa powder with mineral and barn nuances. A baby gigondas with many years ahead. 94\100.

 

Food Match: Palet Or Chuao chocolates by Christophe Morel ( http://morelchocolatier.com/en/).

 

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