Wine and chocolate has always been a tricky combination; for some, perceived wisdom has it that wine does not go with chocolate at all; others prefer something sweet, and another view favours red wine. After a tasting yesterday evening, featuring various red wines from the Vin de Pays de Cotes de Thongue, I am inclined to favour the red wine school. I have to admit to being already slightly converted, a memory lingers on of A Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico with a delicious chocolate tart in the early days at the River Café, when it was only open at lunch time.
The chocolate was supplied by Isabelle Alaya from The Melange Chocolate Shop in Pieckham Rye, London SE15 and Stefan Gorda, the sommelier at the Hotel du Vin in Bristol took me through the various pairings. Isabelle makes delicate wafer thin chocolates with different flavourings and Stefan had selected the one he thought most appropriate to the wine.
We began with Domaine Bonian, 2007 Carignan Vieille Vigne. The wine was nicely rounded with soft tannins, a touch of acidity and some red fruit. A milk chocolate flavoured with coriander and grapefruit seemed to soften any tannins, while the tang of grapefruit added a little acidity.
2004 Grenache from Domaine du Bourdic, élevé en fûts de chênes, tasted quite firmly of oak, which masked the fruit. However, a dark chocolate with a hint of bergamot miraculously calmed down the oak, making a rounded enjoyable mouthful of flavour.
2005 Emocion from Domaine Monplezy, from old Carignan has some rounded red fruit, ripe flavours and nicely balanced tannins. The accompanying milk chocolate was flavoured with coffee and fennel, which seemed to favour the tannins. I started to think that black chocolate works better than milk chocolate.
2007 Merlot from Domaine Coste Rousse was quite rounded and jammy, with a slightly bitter finish. The dark basil flavoured chocolate masked the touch of bitterness, but didn’t really enhance the wine.
More successful was 2007 Synthèse from Domaine de l’Arjolle, another pure Merlot. This was accompanied by a milk chocolate, flavoured with lemon and lavender. The wine had some smokey, cassis fruit, and here the chocolate seemed to add a streak of tannin and some depth to the palate.
And the final combination was 2005 le Pinnacle from Domaine St. Rose, a pure Syrah. Here the black chocolate was flavoured with five spices, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger cloves and fennel, as well as some lemongrass. The wine was quite rounded with soft fruit, and again the chocolate seemed to add depth to the flavour.