Two months ago, I was presented with the opportunity to leave my 8 – 6 office job to manage a local artisanal chocolate shop. How perfect. I said yes.
Since then, I’m immersed in the art, science and respect for good chocolate. Not surprising, the art of pairing chocolates with booze – wine, port and beer (yes, BEER!) is something I immediately gravitate to.
The past weekend, I teamed up with Richmond’s Yelp group and James River Cellars to host a private party where we navigated taste buds and schooled guests on the chemistry and tips of how to respectfully pair vino with chocolate confections.
With the help of our knowledgeable chocolatier and my own research, I was able to execute a little lesson of how to marry the two together and I’m here to tell you how to do it.
You can do this on your own. I promise. Just stick to these guidelines, test it for yourself and host a party (might I recommend ditching that ridiculous tacky sweater party?). This is way better.
1. Taste light to dark. Don’t overwhelm those taste buds by starting with bitter and robust – you won’t be able to notice the subtle flavors and aromas of the delicate lighter pairings. Work your way through the white wines to the red, same goes for the chocolates.
2. Pair like with like. Sweeter chocolates (white, milk and fruit varieties) go well with light whites and sweeter reds. On the flip side, bittersweet and bold chocolates work in perfect harmony with tannic, robust reds.
3. Aim to keep the wine slightly sweeter than the chocolate. Contradictory to what you might think, you’ll want the wine to alter the flavor of the chocolate, not vice versa.
4. Reason point 4 exists is because of this, chocolate is naturally sweet, right? Yes! So when you pair a similar sweet-minded vino with your chosen chocolate, a “cancelling out” phenomena occurs and actually draws sweeter, juicer undiscovered flavors from the wine.
5. If you’re doing a pairing with a group, try and be patient so you can experience the sensation together. You don’t want to be around (or be) that “I-need-to-be-first” ass in the group that blurts out their sensations or opinion. Logistic-wise, bite into the chocolate, notice the flavors. Swirl the wine, sniff and notice the aroma, take a sip of wine while the chocolate is still in your mouth. Notice how the chocolate changes. Discuss the change or any other thoughts on the pair together. Some questions you might want to ask your guests:
How does the wine change the chocolate?
What did it taste like before? What did it taste like after?
Did you notice any flavors in the chocolate or wine when the two combined?
I’m really big on resources … as in cheat sheets. This post wouldn’t be complete without them, so here you go: