This morning, I teamed up with Joel Fink of Fantasy Candies to create the ultimate chocolate & wine pairing to be featured on the Wine Theatre Stage at this year’s Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland. Joel specializes high cocoa chocolates with a fantastic 72% cocoa being his signature bar. For this tasting, Joel brought four bars each with a different percent of cocoa, 72%, 64%, 58% and a swiss milk chocolate at 23%. My job was to pair each up with the perfect (or near to perfect) wine. Tuff job.
In terms of pairing these wonderful bites up with wine, our first consideration is the amount of cocoa vs added sugar in each chocolate. The more sugar in the chocolate, the more sweetness we need to consider for the wine. #1 rule of thumb when pairing up desserts with wine; the wine should always be precieved as sweet or sweeter than the dessert. When it comes to chocolate, the higher the percent of cocoa, the less sugar in the chocolate.
72% cocoa chocolate: Starting with the driest chocolate, we sampled a few wines including Fonseca Ruby Port and Ridge Zinfandel. The Zinfandel proved to be too dry with not enough fruity character to pull it off. The Fonseca port, while tasty with the chocolate did not move either of us. Seemed to be a bit too sweet for the chocolate. Given the bitter bite of the 72%, we decided to use it as an example of what NOT to do when pairing wine and chocolate and teamed it up with Rati Dolcetto. The bitter tannin-bitter chocolate pairing offered a perfect example of a bad pairing. We are keeping it in the tasting.
64% cocoa chocolate: This chocolate had decidedly more sugar and was much less bitter that the first. Joel and I decided that we could up the anti a bit and bring in a sweeter styled wine. Hands down, the FroZin from Meeker won the prize. With 17.5% residual sugar and a lovely perfume of raspberry and red flowers, this wine and chocolate pairing was heaven.
58% cocoa chocolate: Interestingly so, this level of sweetness posed a problem for the wines we had on hand. Less cocoa means more sugar and the wines I pulled for the tasting did not seem to match the unique flavor profile nor sweetness level of the chocolate. While the Fonseca Port faired well, its dried tobacco aromas over powered the lovely creaminess this chocolate from Belgium offered. We then tried an Oloroso Cream Sherry, which failed the test as well. My thoughts are leaning towards a PX or Maderia. I try and few more wines and let you know.
32% cocoa Chocolate: The only mild chocolate on the table this sweet, melt-in-you-mouth chocolate left a lasting impression. The pairing was dead on, Optima 10 year Tawny Port. The result was a to-die-for hazelnut, chocolate, cream explosion on the palate. I think Joel and I both agreed, this combination is a match made in heaven. Cheers.