Salt and pepper. Fish and chips. Bread and butter. Some foods just love hanging out together – and vino 'n' choc are two of them
Being a taste specialist for a chocolate company must be one of the best jobs in the world. EVER. So when Brandt Maybury (choccie connoisseur for Green & Black's) invited us to a chocolate and wine pairing, we were naturally chomping at the bit (or shall we say bar)?
Brandt develops new chocolate recipes, explores textures and tastes, and tests out which chocolate flavour combinations work best (green with envy now). If anyone knows about matching wine and chocs it's him, so without further ado here's what we learned:
1. Follow your nose
As with any food and wine matching, you need to figure out the flavours first to make some great combos. And here, your hooter is most important.
While the tongue detects taste (salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami), the olfactory bulb just above the nasal cavity (yep, getting a bit sciency here) identifies flavours.
Don't believe us? Hold your nose while you eat some white chocolate (maybe do this bit in private). Initially you'll only taste sweetness, but release your nose and as if by magic, you'll be met with vanilla and subtle cocoa flavours. Smart, huh? And of course if that doesn't work, have another bite of chocolate, and another, and another ... oops. None left.
Once the flavours in the chocolate are pinned down however, you've got a free rein to get matching with the booze (just read the labels on the back of the bottles, if you can't try before you buy).
2. Keep it sweet
The golden rule when pairing chocolate and wine is that the wine should be as sweet, if not sweeter, than the chocolate you're pairing it with.
Dessert wines, fortified wines, ports, and sweet sherries are all winners. Go all out with these memorable combos:
White chocolate + Sauternes: the Madagascan vanilla in the chocolate pairs beautifully with the caramel and honey notes in this dessert wine.
Almond milk chocolate + aged Oloroso sherry: dried fruit notes and acidity in the sherry bring out the nutty sweetness of the chocolate.
3. Tame the tannins
Okay, so what are tannins again? (We couldn't remember either). Basically, they're compounds found in grapes skins that cause that 'dry mouth' feeling when you drink red wine. Tannis can fight with dark chocolate and make it taste bitter, so best avoided at all costs.
Don't panic though. Dark chocolate and red wine can get on – all you need is a softer and fruiter wine, low on the tannin scale.
Step forth, Argentinian Malbec. Made from grapes grown in some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world, they've got soft tannins because of the cold air and increased solar radiation up there (well, now we all know!)
This gives you a fruity, full-bodied red, but none of the usual astringency – a lofty, fruity partner for our down-to-earth 85% dark chocolate squares. Delish.
• This piece first appeared on the Sainsbury's magazine blog, Tried and Tasted. Posted by Lucy Jessop.