Thanks to Marcia over at TABLEHOPPER for inviting us to ramble on about one of our favorite chocolate subjects, the pairing of chocolate and booze. While you are visiting her site (the best for SF dining info and gossip), consider subscribing. She almost always scoops a certain local food section.
Welcome to Pairings where we focus on the pairing of specific chocolates with wines and spirits...
I do not know if the first person to suggest pairing chocolate with red wine was a marketing guy (or gal) trying to figure out how to unload a surplus of Cabernet Sauvignon (or worse, Cold Duck) around Valentine’s Day. Or if it was a drunken chef’s glass of red wine spilled into a bowl of ganache that he was then forced to christen ‘dessert’? No matter. What I do know is that it is not my favorite pairing with chocolate. In fact, I don’t like it at all. Neither the Cabs nor the chocolate win. Mostly the wine comes out tasting sour and the chocolate tastes too sweet. What a waste of two great foods. The only time it is worth pairing a chocolate with any libation is when it is an intelligent pairing that enhances the qualities inherent in both the chocolate and the beverage.
I predict that along with saving the rainforest, the world’s near fanatical interest in chocolate will also result in an increase in the popularity of Madeira. I grew up with a bottle of Madeira always present on the sideboard in our dining room. A place of honor. (My family is from Madeira, a small volcanic island 400 miles off the coast of North Africa and considered part of Portugal). The process of making Madeira is unusual. Madeira is fortified with grape brandy and then allowed to ferment before it is heated and held at approximately 115 degrees for six months. There are four distinct styles of Madeira based on grape varietal. One of my favorites is the Malmsey as presented by Bartholomew Broadbent in his Broadbent Ten Year Malmsey . Paired with a high percentage cacao milk chocolate like GUITTARD'S 38% Cacao or EL REY'S 41% Cacao this combination is smooth caramel bliss. The sweetness and acidity are a perfect match as are the slightly viscous mouthfeel of the Madeira and the creamy milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate your preference? Broadbent Auction Reserve Port (Douro Valley, Portugal) is an elegant medium-bodied port that is the perfect chaperone to pair up with your favorite 70% plus cacao plain chocolate bar. One of my favorites is to pair it with a 75% Nacional Arriba cacao from Ecuador, Plantations Chocolate. The floral nose of this single varietal chocolate and port pair beautifully. A very romantic duo.
A note about tasting method:
When pairing chocolate and wine take a small bite of the chocolate, allow it to melt on your tongue and then move it around your mouth so that it coats all surfaces. Then take a sip of wine. Allow the wine to move around your mouth. Where is the bang? In the beginning, middle or end? And is it a long or short finish? What flavors linger in your mouth after you have swallowed?
When choosing a pairing on your own remember to match sweetness and acidity.
Our reviews are a highly personal view of what pleases our palate and amuses our sensibilities. There is no pay for play. You will only find us spending time with the chocolates and chocolate related books, links and people that tickle our fancy. If we can't find something nice to say, we just skip saying anything at all. No chocolate bashing here. Life, as we all know, is too short.