The two most indulgent consumables on the planet can sometimes be a controversial blend. But with a little trial and error (ok - maybe a lot of trial) you can make success by enjoying the combinations that work together and those that don't.
This Easter, your mission is to find your favourite chocolate and wine pairing. You will be doing both industries a favour.
If you've tried wine and chocolate together, odds are you've had a pairing that wasn't so successful.
However, as with all things wine - it's a very personal experience for all of us. Given that we now know that there are different levels of tasters according the amount of taste buds on your tongue, it could be that a supertaster could be put off by strong bitter flavours, while a low taster is turned on by the strength of tannins and creamy dark chocolate.
Wine and chocolate sound like a great idea because both have intense, fruity notes and both are sweet. Unfortunately, this can be too much of a good thing where the pairing doesn't resonate on the palate because of the similarities.
For this reason, you will want to look for wine and chocolate pairings that play up the differences between the two treats.
Polyphenols in wine and chocolate also affect the pairing. Scientifically, polyphenols are the components within wine and chocolate that are anti-inflammatory. Yet polyphenols are responsible for giving dark chocolates their bitter notes and for giving wines their tannic notes.
While tannins are present in both wine and fermented cocoa beans and are responsible for creating a drying sensation on your gums and tongue. Think of the feeling you get from drinking a cup of black tea that has been steeping for a long time on its leaves.
Dark chocolates tend to contain more polyphenols, which gives them a bitter taste offset with notes of fruit or spice. They require bolder and more fruit-forward wines to stand up to the match.
Any wines that have subtle chocolate notes of their own make for an interesting pairing with dark chocolates. These notes are often created by oak treatment which can increase the tannic sensation in the wine.
If you pair a dry wine, such as a shiraz, nebbiolo, sangiovese or pinot noir with a bittersweet chocolate, the experience won't be pleasurable due to an overload of polyphenols.
As both products have natural tannins it can sometimes feel like a clash of the titans on our palates - but luckily the fat content in chocolate can work to ameliorate the dryness this component causes.
I always suggest sipping the wine first and then, with an assortment of chocolate in front of you, start with the lightest style of chocolate - such as a milk chocolate.
By starting light and working your way dark, you will be able to taste the subtler notes at play. If you began with a dark chocolate and then tried white or milk chocolate, you'd miss out on a lot of the flavours.
Likewise, saving fuller-bodied wines for later in the tasting ensures that you will appreciate the notes in lighter wines while your palate is fresher.
While a general rule of success is to pair sweeter wines with chocolates - everything from ice wines to fortified wines such as sherry or port, this pairing can sometimes be a little too sweet for some palates.
If you want to cut out all of these trials and errors, then stick to a merlot or Valpolicella from Italy or a new world cabernet sauvignon - perhaps with a bit of age on it. You are aiming for a soft and velvety wine that matches the silky chocolate.
A great trick is to allow the darker, dryer reds to decant for an hour or two before you enjoy them. This softens the tannins and brings the fruit forward.
Sparkling wine works with a good quality milk chocolate, especially those varieties that have fruity flavors. For nutty milk chocolates, port is a natural pairing, while for fruit-based chocolates try grenache, syrah (shiraz) or aged cabernet sauvignon.
Chances are your wine and chocolate experience will become a firm favourite of yours all year round.
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