Never economise on the small luxuries of life. Drinking fine wine and eating chocolate won’t solve your problems – but they won’t hurt either,” said Ernie J Zelinski. Taking this quotation to heart, London Branch held a wine and chocolate pairing event by Zoom.
None better to lead the tasting than Chantal Coady OBE, an internationally renowned chocolate expert and business woman. Her OBE is unique “for services to chocolate making”. She focuses on sustainable chocolate that keeps value within the local economies where it is made. She has invested in a small cocoa farm in Grenada which donates all the beans to the Grenada Chocolate Co, a small co-operative of organic cocoa farmers.
A pack of six types of chocolates, separately identified only by number, was posted to each of us beforehand. Groups of generic types of alcoholic drinks were specified in advance, for us to select and provide for ourselves.
Chantal told us about each numbered chocolate in turn, linking it to one of the following groups, for us to pair with the particular drinks we had got:.
A – Gewurztraminer from Alsace/ Muscat Beaumes de Venise/ Moscato Asti/ Sauternes
B – Tawny Port/ Australian Sparkling Syrah/ Spanish Muscatel
C – Vintage Port/ Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry/ Rum/ Armagnac
D – Banyuls/ Argentina full body Malbec/ Beaujolais Villages
E – Pedro Ximenez (PX) or other sweet Sherry
The quotations below describing the luxury chocolate are from Chantal’s website: https://www.chocolatedetective.co.uk/
Comments below on the pairings were made by a number of individual participants.
Grenada Special Cuvée 85% Broken Dark Chocolate
“85% cocoa dark chocolate. Flavoured with a touch of Malden sea salt and given a light dusting of gold.” It had bone dry minerality. PX and oloroso sherries were a rewarding match, as was port.
Madagascar 63% menacao
Oloroso sherry, tawny or vintage port. Alsace Riesling. Whisky went well. Sparkling Shiraz was not thought to be a good match.
Grenada 60% Organic Chocolate with Roasted Cocoa Nibs
“Slightly sweet and rich, this has a mellow but complex chocolate brownie flavour owing to the high amount of Grenada cocoa butter. The roasted nibs add a delightful nutty crunch.” A superb texture. Sweet wines were not suitable. Whisky was very good.
Silver Ox very dark milk chocolate (sea salt) 61%
These extremely thin slivers went well with tawny port and with whisky. Dry red wine did not enhance the first three chocolates, but worked with this one.
Golden Sea Salt Wafer Thins
“Thin discs of chocolate made with 40% cocoa milk chocolate. Flavoured with Malden sea salt and given a light dusting of gold.”
Muscat Beaumes de Venise made a good pairing.
Foraged Fennel & Cardamom Wafer Thins
“Flavoured with foraged wild fennel seed, cardamom and a touch of Malden sea salt. Finished with a light dusting of gold.” This was white chocolate. The fennel and sea salt cut though the sweetness. Again the sherry and the whisky made good combinations.
Chantal had also proposed contrasting a bar of “mass-produced” Cadbury’s Bournville dark chocolate – very high in sugar – with “single estate”, to the great benefit of the latter.
We concluded from this tasting that red wine was not the best match for the chocolate. Soft and sweet wines could be paired. Whisky, port, PX and oloroso sherry were consistently successful.
Chantal’s favourite pairings with chocolate are white tea, port, whisky and rum. She says, “Alcohol goes very well – the higher the alcohol level, the more it will make the chocolate sing”.
Thanks to Roger Ellis for organising this excellent and unusual tasting.