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We were lucky enough to indulge in a food and wine matching tasting session with Green & Black's Taste Specialist, Brandt Maybury. His enviable job involves developing new chocolate flavours and recipes, exploring textures and tastes and testing out which combinations work well with their range of organic chocolate. Needless to say, we're incredibly jealous!
Brandt gave us lots of top tips for pairing chocolate with wine, so without further ado, here is what we learned... (This'll come in particularly handy if you've forgotten to plan a dessert and need an impromptu sweet something to round off a dinner party in style.)
Understanding the difference between taste and flavour is key to matching food with wine. It turns out that your nose is just as important (if not more so) than your mouth when comes to appreciating flavour. There are 5 main tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami – these are all detected on different areas of the tongue. Flavour, however, is identified by the olfactory bulb just above the nasal cavity – you can test this out by holding your nose while you eat some Green & Blacks white chocolate: initially, you'll only taste sweetness. When you release your nose, as if by magic, you should detect Madagascan Vanilla and subtle cocoa flavours.
The golden rule when pairing wine with chocolate, is that the wine should be as sweet, if not sweeter, than the chocolate you are pairing it with. So the best drinks to match with chocolate tend to be dessert wines, fortified wines, ports, and sweet sherries.
Why not try white chocolate with Sauternes? The Madagascan vanilla in the chocolate pairs beautifully with the caramel and honey notes in this dessert wine. You could also try aged Oloroso sherry with almond chocolate –the dried fruit notes and acidity in the sherry bring out the nutty sweetness of the chocolate.
Acidity, texture and flavour are important factors in matching wine with food - this is why some red wines don't work with chocolate at all. Red wine varies hugely and some reds can be very tannic – that is, rich in the tannin compounds found in the skins of grapes that can lead to that unwanted 'dry mouth' feeling. Wines with high tannin levels can clash with dark chocolate and make it taste bitter - so when pairing dark chocolate with red wine, its best to opt for fruitier styles with softer tannins.
Try 85% dark chocolate with Argentinian Malbec. These grapes are grown at some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world, where the cold air temperature and increased solar radiation helps to soften the tannins on the palate. This means you end up with a fruity, full-bodied red, but none of the usual astringency - the perfect, flavour-enhancing partner for a few squares of dark chocolate.