Chocolate is probably not the first thing you think of when it comes to wine pairings but chances are that some other people may have been thinking about it as long as a couple thousand years ago.
Wine, chocolate, and bread may be among the oldest prepared foods on the planet. Chocolate is the youngster of the bunch at only 2,000 years of age and it shows its youthful vigor by its every increasing popularity.
The scientific name of the cocoa tree is Theobroma, food of the gods. Nutritional researchers are showing some reverent respect for the cocoa bean. Ounce for ounce, chocolate is higher in antioxidants than fruits, vegetables, tea or wine. A 1.5 ounce piece of dark chocolate has as much antioxidants as 5 ounces of red wine according to researchers at Cornell University. So, if you actually needed a reason to experiment with wine and chocolate pairings there it is.
Wine tasting has been elevated to an art form. The appellation may be well deserved. Grape wine is known to trigger more taste sensors than any other single food or beverage. Wine glasses are specially designed to enhance the flavors provided by different varietals and fermentations.
It is said that wine tasting is 85% smell and 15% taste. Chocolate tasting is the opposite, about 85% taste and 15% smell. These relative characteristics establish a definite preferred procedure for tasting your wine/chocolate pairings.
Break the chocolate into small pieces. Rub the raw edges of two chocolate pieces together close to your nose and place them on your tongue. Do not chew the chocolate. Let it melt in your mouth. When the chocolate has nearly disappeared follow it with the wine.
Chocolate lovers generally prefer the darkest chocolate. As with wine varietals chocolate beans have a pecking order. The very best chocolate is made only from Criollo beans grown in Ecuador, Venezuela and Madagascar.
Ecuador chocolate pairs best with mild red wine with hints of fruitiness.
Venezuelan chocolate also prefers mild red wines. The wine will slightly increase the saltiness of the chocolate.
Madagascar chocolate is stronger in taste than South American chocolate and needs more body in the wine to prevent the chocolate from dominating the flavor pairing. The big reds pair well with Madagascar chocolate. Port wine works best.
Chocolate is grown in other places as well but these geographical locations are considered chocolates best terroir. Try other pairings. The fundamental rule of wine/chocolate pairings is that the wine must be sweeter than the chocolate. Both wine and chocolate are manufactured with a wide range of residual sugar so there is plenty of opportunity mix and match.
If you want to skip the whodunit and go straight to the last chapter try the darkest Madagascar semi-sweet chocolate you can find paired with the best Vintage Duoro Port wine you can afford. This pairing adds a new dimension to the food of the gods.
(c) 2006 by Peter Sabrage a South Florida gray-beard who enjoys the heck out of tasting, reading, and writing about tropical food and wine. Peter contributes to Home-Winemaker, a content rich wine resource site with an online winemaking manual, updated daily on the home-winemaker's Blog.
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