Pairing wine and chocolate is a bit like marmite; something you love or something you don’t, and there are probably a number of sommeliers out there that would say they are better when tasted separately. However, if you carefully choose the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a real match made in heaven, and a remarkable pairing opportunity. Both are luxurious things in themselves, and so have to be treated with respect.
I’ve put together a list of wines that work with some of my distinctive flavours.
Quinoa Puffs Dark 70%
This unusual bar is great for wine matching as the inclusion of quinoa puffs opens up the palate a little more enabling a broader choice of wines to be considered. Something fairly young such as the Grenache dominated Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the south of France works well in this context, as the jammy fruit really comes to the fore, complementing the gentle malt notes of the bar. This could also work with a 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Domaine des Sénéchaux (64% Grenache) which is around £34 a bottle, or a young but refined 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Domaine des Saumades (100% Grenache) for around the same money.
Colombian Dark 70%
Classic single origin bars call for more classic combinations and there are few, if any, better than a Late Bottled Vintage Port from the likes of Graham’s, Fonseca or Taylor’s that display chocolatey characters of their own. If you are looking for something a little different however, then I’d recommend a rich Barossa Valley Shiraz from Australia. A great example would be the 2014 Hentley Farm, The Beast Shiraz at around £65 a bottle, but there are also plenty of cheaper alternatives out there.
Honeycomb & Sea Salt Dark 70%
The honeycomb element of this bar of mine enables experimentation with some sweet whites, but it does demand a wine with considerable richness to stand up to the 70% cocoa content.
Aged Tokaji from Hungary is at the sweeter, weightier end of the spectrum and could be a real winner here. Look for producers like Oremus, Ch. Pajzos or Disznóko and sweetness levels of 5 or 6 Puttonyos. If money is no object then you can always try a 2003 Tokaji Essencia from The Royal Tokaji Wine Company, a snip at just £466 a half bottle!
Moroccan Rose Milk 41%
The sweetness of a milk chocolate needs a wine that is either sweet in terms of sugar content or has an impression of sweetness enhanced by the ripeness of the grapes or oak that it has been aged in. The rose petal notes here are the perfect complement to wines that offer juicy red berry fruit impressions.
Try with a Recioto della Valpolicella like the exquisite 2011 vintage from Giovanni Allegrini (around £34 per bottle) – this is a naturally sweet red wine from the Veneto region of north east Italy where the grapes are left to dry on straw mats to concentrate the sugars.
Caramelized Hazelnuts and Sea Salt Dark 70%
Nutty caramel flavours can work well with oak aged wines as they often display the same characteristics. As long as there is enough ripe fruit in support you can experiment with several young reds. The sea salt also works brilliantly at enhancing the flavours of both chocolate and wine.
Many high quality Spanish reds from regions such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero in the north east and north of the country can match successfully here. Try a 2008 Vina Ardanza, Reserva La Rioja Alta (around £25 per bottle) where the traditional use of American oak provides a sweeter, coconut appeal. If you want a real treat then search out a bottle of 2012 Valbuena from arguably Spain’s greatest producer, Vega Sicilia (around £100 a bottle).
Eat: Noble Rot Restaurant
Shop: Berry Bros & Rudd
Travel: The Vineyard Hotel (Relais & Chateaux) is great for those who can’t escape to vines abroad.
Read: Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2017
Noble Rot:The Bordeaux Wine Revolution by William Echikson