Tips & Tricks: Pairing Wine With Chocolate, Part 3

14 10 2011

In case you have scrupulously avoided this blog for the past couple weeks and missed it, Part 1 of this mammoth super-post talked about the general principles applicable to pairing wine with chocolate and made some guesses as to which wines might make winning choco-combos; Part 2 put three dry red wines to a taste test only to see all of them fail more or less miserably; and tonight’s Part 3 moves away from dinner wines and reveals whether dessert wines (and a beer, for good measure) fared any better with dark chocolate at the tasting night I held with wine friends Brian, Tyler and Farrell earlier this week.  In parallel with this PnP saga, Victoria Kaye, the chocolate distributor who put the wheels in motion on this train of thought by sending me a care package of free Xocai brand chocolates with instructions to wine-match as I saw fit, has been providing the chocolate’s perspective on this whole thing on her blog XoXoXocai — click here for her reaction on the first part of the Pop & Pour taste test, which includes some tasting notes on the various chocolates that gave themselves up for a good gastronomic cause.

Cork Ratings, Wines #1-5 (in order): 0.5/10, 2/10, 7/10, 4/10, 3/10. Not such a stellar lineup.

To refresh your memory, by the end of Part 2 of this post, Wines 1 through 3 were wishing that they had been passed over as candidates in this study:  the 2008 Alias Cabernet Sauvignon (Calfornia) was the worst of the bunch, netting a chocolate Compatibility Score of 25%; the 2005 Modern Wine Project Malbec (Washington) had fared (literally) twice as well but still barely scraped a passing grade at 51%; and the 2008 Colaneri Cabernet Franc (Niagara) proved to be the most polarizing wine of the night, attracting my fiery hatred and tasting like tomato soup but still (somehow) pulling out 50%.  Starting with Wine #4, we ditched the dry wines and moved to those sweeter reds that were initially predicted to be the best chocolate matchups.  It may have been that we were in a better mood after downing the three bottles of wine that preceded them, but the dessert wines did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Tips & Tricks: Pairing Wine With Chocolate, Part 2

12 10 2011

5 bottles of wine, 5 pounds of chocolate: let the extravagance begin!

In Part 1 of PnP’s review of potentially stellar wine and chocolate matches (click here to read it if you missed it), we went through the boring stuff:  general wine/food pairing rules, hand-wringing about how chocolate was going to be a difficult match for most wines, and intellectual guesstimating about what bottles actually might stand a chance at being a good pairing.  If you want to save yourself 1500 words or so, I thought a sweet intense red dessert wine seemed like the best choco-match but committed myself to testing out some dry reds too in the name of exploration; given the hypothesis that fruity, intense, not overly tannic reds would win the day, I decided to give Europe the cold shoulder and stick to the New World for dinner wines.  With all the hard academic stuff out of the way, last night I got to the fun part:  sitting down with some good friends, opening an insane amount of high-end chocolate, cracking 5 bottles of wine (and a bottle of beer for good measure) and doing 4+ hours of taste testing, just for you.  Huge thanks to the noses, palates, knowledge and intuition of my trusted friends Brian, Tyler and Farrell, whose impressions and conclusions are all over this post and without whom this exercise would have seemed much more lonely and pathetic.

Our official choco-pairing tasting lineup featured a California Cabernet Sauvignon, a Washington State Malbec, a Niagara Cabernet Franc, a dessert wine from Banyuls in Southern France, a vintage Port and a dark craft beer.  I’m going to write up our experiences with the 3 dry reds tonight and leave you in suspense about the dessert reds and the beer for a couple more days…like every moderately good movie idea, I’m stringing this out for at least two sequels.  The only unfortunate part about this approach is that you may be too depressed after reading the below to want to come back for Part 3, so I will foreshadow a bit and promise that the wine/chocolate matchups DO get better.  Just not tonight. Read the rest of this entry »

Tips & Tricks: Pairing Wine With Chocolate, Part 1

2 10 2011

How you know you’ve made it as an amateur blogger:  when somebody sends you free chocolate.  Me, as of this week?  Made it.

The (few) perks of writing a free blog.

One of this site’s dozens (OK, dozen) of loyal subscribers is Victoria Kaye, an Ontario-based marketing guru, freelance writer and distributor of the Xocai lineup of chocolate products.  Victoria is a blogger in her own right, regularly churning out insightful posts about her unique choco-wares at her site XoXoXocai.  I took particular notice of this site not only because it shares a platform affiliation with PnP (holla WordPress!) but also because it so happens that Victoria and I started up our respective blogs within a week of each other at the start of March 2011…as I’m continually reminded, it’s a small world full of strange coincidences.  Victoria actually first stumbled across Xocai chocolates as a guest at a wine tasting, and since then has been wanting to delve further into the intricacies of pairing wine with chocolate; the chocolate package I received was conditional on my attempting to respond to this very issue.  Well, chocolate received and mission accepted!

Wine and chocolate is a pairing that seems to have been universally sold as a match made in heaven (if Hallmark cards, romantic getaway packages and any Valentine’s Day episode of any TV show in history are effective barometers of these kinds of things).  In reality, however, I have a hard time envisioning there will be even a handful of wine styles that will truly form a mutually-enhancing match with most types of chocolate.  Even before I started looking into this in detail, I thought that chocolate had two key characteristics that would severely restrict the number of wines that would taste good with it:  it’s sweet and it’s distinctive.  Dry wines generally don’t match up well with sweeter foods, and foods with individual and assertive flavours automatically narrow their pairing options because they’re incapable of simply being a blank canvas that can be fleshed out by multiple different wine choices.  There are assuredly some truly symbiotic wine matches for chocolate out there, but my guess is that they’re few and far between.  Of course, that’s not going to stop me from trying to find them.  The goal of this post is to narrow down what to look for in a potential chocolate pairing, after which I’ll go buy a few likely candidates, recruit some willing volunteers, then take a bullet for all of my dear readers by eating a lot of chocolate and drinking a lot of wine to find out what tastes good with what.  The results of my strictly-for-science tasting night will be posted shortly after its completion (i.e. as soon as I come out of the sugar coma). Read the rest of this entry »

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