What do wine and chocolate have in common? Aside from the fact that they can pair very well together, quite a lot!
Last Thursday evening, the Echo Center hosted a wine tasting event, featuring wines from several terroirs in France and Italy. The wines were delicious, but what made the event extra interesting was the table of our Blue Bandana Chocolate that also made an appearance. With both high-quality wine and high-quality chocolate present, it wasn't a hard step to start to draw comparisons between the two, in terms of both tasting and origin.
Let’s take the concept of a terroir: A terroir, as Jason Zuliani from Dedalus Wine explained, is a sense of location and place for the grapes. As Jason put it, "this wine exists to communicate place." All aspects of that place can influence the wine, from the soil to the climate to the age of the grape vines. Here are two quick examples from the event:
The age of the vines played an important part in the flavors that came out. Older vines produce fewer grapes, and those they produce tend to be more concentrated, so that the older the vine, the more it can contribute to something in the flavor. For instance, there were two 2010 Riofavara "Nero D’Avola" Sicilian wines at the event: the "Spaccaforno" and the "Sciavè." Both are produced in the same year, but the Sciavè used older vines (43 years instead of 30). The difference in taste was clear! The older vines had a more rounded flavor with bolder tones.
The location and soil of the vines changes the flavor of the grapes created. For example, with the Chablis we tasted, there were two types: Chablis and Petit Chablis, both made from Chardonnay grapes and grown in the same town. But the Petit Chablis, had slightly less limestone in its soil, whereas the Chablis had more. As a result, the Petit Chablis was a bit more crisp and fresh, and the Chablis more rounded.
Now, let’s take these two examples over to chocolate:
The plants themselves: Cocoa trees have a lot in common with grape vines. For one thing, both have to reach maturity before they begin to produce. In the case of grape vines, this can be 3-5 years. For cocoa trees, it’s 5-6. In both plants, a lot of thought goes into the specific type of plant being used. In the cocoa world more and more farmers and producers are getting the skills they need to graft "super producer" trees onto trees that produce fewer cocoa pods. The wine industry is slightly ahead here, but it’s the same concept.
Location: Sourcing cocoa beans, and the soil type and area in which the trees are grown, is just as important with chocolate as it is with wine. We produce several varieties of chocolate from specific sources, including our Tanzania, Peru, Sao Thome, and, from Blue Bandana, a Madagascar and a Guatemala. All of these have differentiating tastes, based on the locations where they were produced. For instance, Madagascar is a huge spice producer, so when you take a bite of our chocolate, you can taste the hints of cinnamon and vanilla wrapped in chocolate. Guatemala, on the other hand, grows a lot of bananas, and those flavors translate into the chocolate itself.
So you see, terroir is important to both wine and chocolate!
Finally, what’s better than tasting wine and chocolate? Tasting them together to see how they work! From the various combinations around, we found two that were true winners:
1. The Blue Bandana Madagascar Black Pepper with the Sang Des Cailloux Cuvée Lopy: The peppery taste of the chocolate brought out new and different sweetnesses in the wine, and the chocolate just blossomed with the help of this delicious red from the Southern Rhône.
2. The Blue Bandana Guatemala with the 1997 Chablis: 1997 was a great growing year for the grapes, and age has only intensified the almost honey-like flavors in this wine. Taste it with the Guatemala and you’ll be amazed at how it brings out the fruit tones in what I often consider to be a very flowery chocolate.
And, for those of you who attended the event and want to remember, or for any of you who missed it and want to recreate it on your own, here’s the list of wines we tried. Don’t forget to continue to experiment on pairing them with our chocolate!
Domaine le Sang Des Cailloux
Winemaker: Serge Férigoule
Region: Southern Rhone/Vacqueryas
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras "Cuvée Lopy"
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Blanc
Winemaker: Massimo Padova
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Spaccaforno"
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Sciavè"
Winemaker: Roland Lavantureux
2010 Lavantureux Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Chablis
2010 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2008 Lavantureux Chablis magnum
1997 Lavantureux Chablis magnum