Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wine and Food Matching: Chocolate and Champagne

This is a matching I had to do for El Mundo newspaper here in Spain. They picked 5 champagnes and five chocolates and had me match them. Four of the pairs matched up naturally, the final one was a bit trickier, mainly due to trouble matching any of the chocolates with the Piper Heidsieck. Following is the rite up I did for them…with a few modifications!

Matching chocolate and champagne has often been considered a classic. In my experience, this is a generalization and, in fact, matching champagne and chocolate can be a real challenge! This tasting was a fascinating experience, opening my eyes to new matches I hadn't considered and confirmed some of the excellent matches I expected. Each champagne and each chocolate brought an exciting depth of flavors to the table.

Some basic conclusions: simple chocolates and simpler champagnes are easier to match, and they match well together. Rose champagnes, very fruity and vinous, are easier to match with most food, chocolate included. White chocolate is easier to match than others, especially dark, bitter chocolate. In general, matching is quite complicated…the easiest thing is to drink a champagne you love and eat a chocolate you love!

Pair #1

Champagne: Ruinart Brut Rosé
Chocolate: Serenity Milk Chocolate with bitter orange, lime blossom and rice crisps

Two very complex products that match each other perfectly! The champagne's strawberry and toast notes, and great acidity matches wonderfully with the complex, orange and herbal flavors in the chocolate. The vinous roundness and full bodied mouth of the champagne pairs wonderfully with the crunchy texture of the puffed rice crunch in the chocolate. Generally loved this chcocolate!

Pair #2

Champagne: Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque brut 1998
Chocolate: Crujiente blanco y coco

This is a match made in champagne and chocolate heaven! The toasty coconut and smooth, milky white chocolate flavors pair perfectly with this complex and subtle champagne, where toasty crianza notes dominate. The fresh citric fruit of the champagne also helps tame the very sweet nature and crunch of the white chocolate.

Pair #3

Champagne: Billecart Salmon Rosé
Chocolate: Cacao Sampaka Dark Chocolate 70%

Dark chocolate can be a challenge to match as it is so bitter and intense, but this complex rosé champagne is up to the task! The pleasantly bitter cocoa notes match wonderfully with the acidity and raspberry notes in the wine. Both the chocolate and champagne have subtle smoky notes that complement each other beautifully.

Pair #4

Champagne: Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge
Chocolate: White Chocolate Fondu

The most pure and simple flavors often match really well! The candied lemon fruit and great acidity of the champagne contrast yet compliment perfectly the very sweet, smooth and creamy flavour and texture of the white chocolate fondu. A strawberry or other fruit dipped in the chocolate fondu would enhance this match even more!

Pair #5

Champagne: Piper Heidsieck Brut
Chocolate: Lindt Milk Chocolate

This one match was my least favourite, though it wasn't bad...my least favorite chocolate too! The sweet, milky and caramel notes of the milk chocolate match with the baked and fresh apple notes in the champagne: like a candied apple! The chocolate is very sweet and the good acidity in the champagne contrasts nicely.

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