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Wine and Chocolate - Matching wine to good chocolate

Wine Interests

Matching food and wine is a lot of fun, arranging for the flavours of one to enhance the flavours of the other. But there's a new game that I've come across and you might like to try it, it's matching wine and chocolate.

Matching food and wine is a lot of fun, arranging for the flavours of one to enhance the flavours of the other. But there's a new game that I've come across and you might like to try it, it's matching wine and chocolate. What makes this such a lot of fun is that you get a perfect excuse to try a whole lot of wine as well as pig out on really good chocolate. And that's the point of this game, you don't try matching wines to bog standard commercial choccies, you go out and get the real stuff, the 60% and higher cocoa content stuff, the expensive chocolate in the fancy packaging.

Expensive as these high content cocoa chocs can be, once you've tasted them you can see at once why they're better than the cheap varieties. For a start your palate will tell you you're on to something good. You'll lick your lips, you'll break off another piece, you'll savour a complexity of flavours that you simply don't get with the ordinary stuff. And there's another plus point to this, you can try lots of different single variety chocolates and tell yourself it's research, not gluttony.

Good chocolate is like good wine, it has a provenance and it exhibits exactly the same characteristics of terroir that a wine does. Cocoa beans are grown in many countries of South America and the Caribbean, and every country, every variety of bean, every micro-climate, produces its own flavours. Good chocolate makers make bars that let you try all of these variables. You can get these chocolates in Ireland, two of the best names to experiment with are the Italian makers Amedei from Pisa, and Valrhona, the French company based in the Valley of the Rhone. (geddit?) The comparison with wine is a good one; there are now Grand Cru chocolates which come from single estates and Valrhona are even making vintages. Look out for high cocoa content (60%-70%), all natural ingredients, no fat substitutes (just cocoa butter) and lastly look for real vanilla, not the chemical vanillin.

Chocolate buffs commonly use words like forest fruits, citrus, dark tans, tobacco, toffee, caramel, coffee and almonds to describe the various flavours they encounter. That particular list would look familiar to a wine buff, since those very adjectives often apply equally well to wine. Of course, it's just that similarity that makes the matching of good wines and good chocolates such a perfect pairing.

Just like a fine wine, a really good chocolate has a long, lingering taste, even up to fifteen minutes after you've swallowed it. And just as with wine, the flavours change from the initial tastes as the chocolate melts in the mouth, to more complex flavours that are slowly released.

Recommended wine

Sauternes 2001 (half bottle)

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