The chocolate challenge
When the owner of a local chocolate factory asked if I could come up with a wine match for their various chocolates it was impossible for me to refuse. I’m not a great chocolate lover but I have a wife, two daughters and four granddaughters who are. Once they’d got wind of the challenge I was committed to seeing it through.
Stephanie, co-owner of Devonport Chocolates, duly delivered a quantity of white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and dark chilli chocolate and I assembled about 20 wines of all shapes and sizes to find the best match. Here is what I discovered:
White chocolate is uber-sweet and, as expected, it was happiest with wines that were also uber-sweet. The star of this matching session went to a Moscato d’Asti from the north of Italy. The wine has a mere 5.5% alcohol and is incredibly sweet but the sweetness is supported by plenty of fruity acidity. If you are looking for a match with white chocolate it should begin and end here.
Botrytised riesling and sauvignon blanc also made a good match (the sweeter the better) but Moscato d’Asti was the true star.
The best matches with milk chocolate were the clearly fortified sweet wines. Australian liqueur Tokay and Muscat, the sweet sherry Pedro Ximénez and port all worked well, although I thought that the Australian liqueur Tokay and Muscat formed the best overall match.
Dark chocolate and dark chilli chocolate
Over the years many people have told me that dark chocolate makes a great match with astringent red wines such as cabernet sauvignon. That didn’t make any sense. Surely the sweetness in the chocolate would strip out any sweetness in the wine and accentuate the wine’s astringency?
My chocolate challenge was a perfect opportunity to put this myth to rest. But it didn’t. The chocolate seemed to make several aggressively astringent reds deliciously rich and creamy. I’m not sure how it works, but it does. Perhaps the bitterness in the chocolate reduces our sensitivity to astringency? Could it be that the creaminess of the chocolate smothers the tannins in the same way that milk (uncoagulated protein) in a strong cup of tea reduces the tannic effect? I don’t know the answer but I now appreciate the effect.