If you Google ‘food and wine matching experiences in South Africa’ chances are that somewhere on the front page you’ll find a wine farm offering a chocolate and wine pairing.
But does it really work?
Can sweet chocolate be paired with dry wines? Will it only work with sweet wines? Does the colour of the wine make a difference? They’re all interesting questions so, as Easter is coming up and we’re all thinking about chocolate, I thought I’d do a bit of research and find out.
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Generally, sweet foods are considered wine-wreckers, especially when paired with wines which are drier than the food – they enhance bitterness and acidity as well as tannin in red wines.
According to Kaylis Adams from Lourensford Wines who offer a chocolate and wine pairing, none of their chocolates would really be considered sweet. “We use chocolate which is at least 60% cacao” she says “so they’re really not sweet at all.”
Joakim Blackadder, an internationally-accredited sommelier working at The Hoghouse on Spier Wine Estate, agrees but cautions against going too much in the other direction. “Up to about 75 or 80% is okay but you have to watch out that the chocolate doesn’t become too bitter for the wine” he says.
Richard von Gesau who hand-makes the chocolates used in Waterford Wines chocolate pairing says that the key is not just getting the sweetness level right, but also matching flavours and making sure that the intensity of the wine and the chocolate is the same. “A good wine and chocolate match should bring something to the party which wasn’t there before” he says. “And if you get it wrong, you do both the wine and the chocolate a huge disservice.” He prefers to match dark chocolate to milk or white chocolate and also suggests that matching it to both port and brandy can be very successful.
Adding in flavours to the chocolate is a popular move and helps bring out nuances in the wine – Richard uses chai spices and rock salt whilst Lourensford adds fruits such as cherry and stone fruit. Most of these flavours are inspired by the wines themselves – everyone agreeing that the wine should be the starting point in this matching scenario – and in most cases, the winemakers are involved in creating the chocolate flavours and giving them a final seal of approval.
So – top tips for pairing chocolate with wine this Easter?
1. Go for a high percentage cacao chocolate and skip the white stuff. Joakim recommends choosing a wine with a bit of age as the tertiary flavours go better than fresh, vibrant fruit.
2. Look for complementary flavours in the chocolate and wine – There are some brands that have a huge range of different flavours which are a great starting point. And if all fails – just eat up, drink up and enjoy them both on their own!
What’s your experience of pairing wine with chocolate – yay or nay? SHARE your thoughts with us in the comments below!
- Cathy Marston