An evening of chocolate and wine pairings

Did you celebrate Valentine’s day yesterday? After last year’s overpriced dinner, Adam and I decided to move our own celebration to March 1. Random, I know, but February 14th has no real significance so moving it by 2 weeks seemed like a good alternative!

So yesterday was supposed to be just another Monday until I was offered press tickets to the chocolate and wine pairings tasting run by the Boston Chocolate School. I actually attended their chocolate truffle making class last year that I enjoyed, so I was excited about this one. Chocolate and wine are definitely at the top of my food chain!

The event was held at the College Club of Boston, which was a gorgeous space right in the heart of Back Bay. Definitely fancier than I was expecting!

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When we were finally guided to the dining room, I was also surprised to see a very elegant setting in front of us – complete with wine, chocolate and red tablecloth – perfect to get us all in Valentine’s Day mood (although definitely not the most flattering color for photos! Oh well. Winking smile ).

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Tim Brown walked us through the chocolate tasting process (check the shine of chocolate, listen to the snap, smell it, let the chocolate melt between your tongue and your palate, let some air in to let it oxidize… note any characteristics). We went from white to dark, noting the difference the cocoa solid content and even subtle regional differences (like south and north of Venezuela) have on chocolate taste, mouth feel, etc. Most chocolates tasted (except for white) were the El Rey chocolates which are very high quality (100% cocoa butter) and I really enjoyed them, but I have to admit – I couldn’t taste anything other than chocolate – no raspberry/smoke/tobacco notes (maybe coffee or caramel… but those characteristics could be applied to any chocolate in my opinion). Nope. It was chocolate. It was good chocolate – that’s it. Maybe I need to train my palate more. Clearly more chocolate tasting is required! Winking smile

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Harry Silverstein also talked to us about his chosen wine pairings. We started with a very sweet moscato paired with the white chocolate, eventually migrating to a sweet Shiraz (was not a fan!), then drier Merlot, Cabernet Savignon and finally a port, which was meant to stand up to the darkest chocolate. None of the wines really wowed me and I felt like letting the wine oxidize in your mouth (by letting some air in) actually intensified the taste of alcohol instead of bringing out the primary (fruit) and secondary (smoke, mineral, etc.) notes in the wine. Harry was really personable though and I think it’s a tough job satisfying everyone’s palates at once. I think, as weird as it may seem, the chocolate may have altered the wine taste (for me!) in a negative way. Apparently I’m a purist. I like to keep them separate (lesson learned!).

Overall, I enjoyed this tasting and learned some interesting things. Like the fact that in Europe chocolate must contain at least 98% cocoa butter to be classified as chocolate, while the US requires only 22% (the rest of the fat comes from much cheaper palm kernel oil, which has a much higher melting point than our body’s and thus leaves a waxy aftertaste)… that’s also why you may find that your favorite brand may have a different taste depending on whether it was produced (and sold) for US distribution or Europe.

I also learned that sweet wines have lower alcohol content because not all the sugar is allowed to ferment (and turn to alcohol). Tim and Harry shared many other chocolate and wine facts and I was happy to learn while munching and sipping away!

These babies came home with me…

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Can’t wait to try them!!

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Do you try to pair your wine with food (or chocolate)? Ever taken a “formal” class to learn from the experts?

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