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Facing Up to the Big No-No: What wine to serve with chocolate (May 16, 2002)

Oil and water. Wine and chocolate. The accepted wisdom is that wine and chocolate should not under any circumstance be put together. All the wine books tell you so. But, like all truisms, it needs to be tested from time to time.

Conte Pieralvise Serègo Aligheri delights in perplexing wine writers who visit his Valpolicella estate in Veneto by offering them After Eight mints with his Amarone (it works!).

Another man who is in favour of marrying wine and chocolate is Bernard Callebaut, master chocolatier, who began making his Belgian chocolates in Calgary nearly twenty years ago. Three years ago Callebaut won the top prize at the International.Festival of Chocolate in Roanne, France, the first North American to do so.

"They judge the range of products you sell," Callebaut told me. "I also won in the category of matching wine with chocolate. I put together a chocolate with nougat, buttercream and caramel with a Black Muscat dessert wine from California."

Chocoholic's Guide
to Wine Matching

Best all-round solution:
Brut Champagne
Cognac/Armagnac
Coffee Liqueur
Orange liqueur
Fruit eaux-de-vie
 
White Chocolate:
Ruby Port
Recioto della Valpolicella
Late Harvest Zinfandel
Banyuls
Cream Sherry
 
Milk Chocolate:
Black Muscat
Orange Muscat
Samos Muscat
Ruby/LBV port
 
Dark Chocolate:
Sauternes
Icewine
Merlot
Zinfandel
Petite Sirah

I asked Bernard Callebaut for his thoughts in general on putting wine and chocolate together.

"There's not much difference from choosing wines for food," he contends. "You have to see which chocolate you're going to serve. If you go for white chocolate you should choose a sweeter wine than one for milk or dark chocolate. For dark, bittersweet chocolate you should go to a Sauternes type wine. With white chocolate I would suggest a red wine with some tannin in it.

"The best and easiest all-round solution for chocolate is champagne or liqueurs. With Brut champagne you can serve any style of chocolate. With a champagne that has residual sugar you're putting sweet with sweet and that doesn't work well. When it comes to liqueurs, the drier types work best, like pear eau de vie, armagnac and cognac. Coffee-based liqueurs go very well and so do orange-based liqueurs such as Grand Marnier – as long as you serve a non-sweet chocolate. I would avoid white or milk with that."

What red wines would he recommend with chocolate? "Merlot, Zinfandel would be my preference with bittersweet. Although my preference is Icewine. I took Ontario Icewine to France twice now and served it with my dark chocolate. The people loved it."

And is there any difference in having wine with chocolate by itself or with a chocolate-based dessert? "The principles stay the same. Port, Late Bottled Vintage or Ruby, goes very well with milk chocolate and definitely with dark chocolate but don't waste a fine vintage port. It deserves to be consumed alone."

Bernard Callebaut chocolates are sold in major cities from Toronto to the West Coast. For information, call 1-800-661-8367.

 

 

 

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