Here’s a tasty adventure – pairing wine and chocolate. Did you know that tasting chocolates has been compared to the same art of tasting wines? You don’t have to be a wine or a chocolate sommelier to enjoy learning how to pair the two!
The main ingredients for this tasting are chocolate, wine, awareness and sense of adventure. Remember, my palate is not your palate…so you get to decide which pairing is the best. Here’s how to hold your own tasting – share with friends and fun will follow! (At the end of this article, click to receive a Chocolate Pairing with Wines Cheat Sheet!)
Select your chocolate
While there are many kinds of chocolate you can use, I prefer chocolate that is organic, Fair Trade and 60% -85% cacao for the most health benefits. For pairings, it is best to use the non-mass produced kind (i.e. Hershey’s, etc) as they have been highly processed and do not often enhance other foods. The chocolate should be at room temperatures (don’t store in the fridge, as it could develop bloom!). Serve in bite size pieces. I like labeling plates with each one’s name and cacao %. You could also have note paper for you (and any guests) to write down combinations they enjoy.
Select your wine(s)
In general, your wine should be as sweet as, or sweeter than, the chocolate you are serving with it. The saying goes “White wines go with white chocolate, and red wines with darker chocolates”. Not following these rules can bring delicious surprises! When I questioned the experts at artisanal chocolate stores in Manhattan, they all agree that one should not use white chocolate for tastings, as it is basically flavorless as it’s mostly coca butter (unless it’s used to coat a fruit, in which case pair the fruit with the wines).
With champagnes (or rather, sparkling whites), skip the brut and go with the sec or demi sec. The drier the champagne, the more likely the chocolate will grate against your tongue like sandpaper. Look for truffles, a classic pairing. Around Valentine’s Day, many specialty chocolatiers will offer champagne flavored ones!
For a tasting, keep it simple and buy one wine and three kinds of chocolates. Alternatively, adventure bigger with the 3X3 tasting. You could offer up to three kinds of wines, each paired with three chocolates. If you do go with multiple wines, make sure to buy ones with decent differences. Always pair the chocolates to the wine, and not the wine to the chocolate. Look for flavor notes in the wine and pick chocolates that will complement the flavors and bring out the notes. Vanilla notes paired with a chocolate that has vanilla too, will give you a pleasant “mouth feel.” Chocolates with similar fruits can enhance the wine, or if a different fruit can be overwhelming. Start with the lightest to darkest (the same can be said if you’re trying more than one kind of wine).
*Start with the chocolate. Listen to the snap as you break a bar into bite size pieces. Look at the texture. Does it have a sheen? Or is it grainy?
*Breathe in the aroma. Let the smells sweep over you. Can you already tell if it’s quality chocolate? Does it bring up any childhood memories?
*Gently place it in your mouth. Hold it on your tongue and let it dissolve, noticing your first impressions, the flavor notes, the textures, the finish. Then slowly chew, letting the flavors permeate your mouth.
*After the chocolate has covered your tongue, take a sip of wine. Do you note any aftertaste? What are your reactions? Take another bite and notice changes.
*Repeat this process with the next choice. What are the differences from the previous piece?
Some chocolate facts
- Chocolate is derived from an intensive process of farming, harvesting, and transport, often employing less expensive labor or child labor overseas. “Fair-Trade” labeled chocolate certifies that the chocolate has been manufactured at a fair wage, and with the exclusion of child labor.
- Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Cocoa is sometimes treated with alkali, or Dutch-processed, to improve the flavor and appearance. However, this causes a significant loss of flavanols. Mass chocolate bars such as Hershey, Dove, KitKat, Cadbury, Nestles and dark chocolate M&Ms all have alkali (and some don’t even have dark chocolate, even though labeled that way!)
The healthy info
- Health benefits of dark chocolate includes potentially lowering blood pressure, reducing heart disease, reduce the risk of diabetes, increase brain function and even help protect your skin from the sun! It is rich in iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus potassium, and selenium. Dark chocolate is a powerhouse of antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.
- Theobromine is the chemical ingredient that makes you feel good after eating chocolate. In processed bars, theobromine is often greatly reduced or gone. Besides being a mood lifter, theobromine has other health benefits – it even helps with colds!
Chocolate delivered to you
Your local stores don’t carry much more than the basic milk chocolates? Here are a few resources for having good quality chocolate delivered to you. PS – I am not affiliated with these brands (at least not yet!), they are just chocolates I adore and are available for shipping.
Caputo’s Market & Deli (a gourmet store in Utah, with a great chocolate selection)
Chocosphere (offering a variety of fine chocolates)
Bar & Cocoa (check out the amazing packaging of craft chocolates!)
Tell me your thoughts on this adventure. Are you willing to explore the worlds of wine and chocolate? Up your chocolate game? Discover what your palate finds pleasurable? If you do have a party, send me photos (post on the Adventure Wednesdays Facebook page, contact me there or send me an email at Stacey @ adventurewednesdays dot com)