Wine and chocolate pairing

chocolate scioltiI put this tasting together for the Ideal Home Show this weekend and with Easter around the corner and chocolate aplenty everywhere, I thought I’d share it. Come and taste with me for free this weekend if you can make it to Olympia!

Why is wine and chocolate so difficult to match?

Chocolate, especially commercial milk chocolate, is a notoriously tricky match for wine because it coats your mouth, stripping normal, dry wine of its fruitiness, leaving it tasting bitter, lean and acidic. The chocolate’s own flavour can rarely stand up to the wine either so becomes pretty tasteless. High quality, less sweet chocolate on the other hand often has a more intense flavour and should leave your mouth feeling clean and energised rather than claggy, which makes for much happier matching. A wine tends to needs some sweetness to stand up to chocolate. Sweet wines appear less sweet when paired with chocolate too which can be a good thing if you generally find dessert or sweet wines a little too much.

3 tips for wine and chocolate pairing

  • The sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine needs to be.
  • The darker the chocolate, the less sweet the wine can be.
  • Fortified wines go well because they are particularly rich and powerful, so can stand up to intense flavour, sugar and texture.

How to taste chocolate with wine

Taste the wine first, swirling to aerate it. Sniff it, then take in a large sip with some air, swirling it all around your mouth, over your teeth and gums. Breathe out through your nose and experience those aromas and flavours. Now take your piece of high quality chocolate, snap it in two and smell it. Allow it to slowly melt on your tongue, concentrating on the aromas and flavours as you breathe out through your nose. Taste the wine again now and see what effect it has.

Classic wine and chocolate pairings

For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a nutty, flavoured chocolate.

martiniWhite chocolate is made using just the cocoa butter (fat) from the cocoa bean and is usually sweet and creamy. A light and frothy, sweet wine with fizz such as Moscato d’Asti can make a really pretty match. The grapey, floral notes of the wine enhance a slight orangey flavour in the chocolate.  It’s a nice, low alcohol option too. I love this combination:

TRY: Asti Spumante Moscato d’Asti, £5.50 (bargain!) from Sainsbury’s with Fiona Sciolti’s Vanilla White Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

fletcher's portMilk chocolate  – both straight up and in chocolate mousse form – have sweetness and some darker, cocoa notes that need to be considered. Fortified red wines with lots of bright fruit flavours such as Ruby Port, Banyuls and Maury work well as they have enough sweetness to stand up to the chocolate flavour and enough power to cut through the texture. The wine still tastes fruity and the chocolate feels like velvet. Yes!

TRY: Fletcher’s Ruby Port, £6.49 ALDI (another bargain!) with Fiona Sciolti’s Cocoa Nibs & Sea Salt Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

jacobs creekDark Chocolate, especially if it’s flavoursome and not sweet will actually go with some still, dry red wines. The Syrah grape (aka Shiraz) is said to be a particularly good match because it makes wine that is fairly hefty and very fruity, but isn’t too dry and ‘tannic’. For something a little different, go for a sparkling Shiraz from Australia; it feels particularly indulgent and the fact that you serve the wine cold makes the combo surprisingly refreshing!

TRY: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz, £10 from Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets with Fiona Sciolti’s ‘Afrique’ 80% blended dark chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

sainsbry's madeiraHazelnut Praline is a very popular flavoured chocolate. It’s sweet, creamy and nutty, so needs something sweet and powerful, but if you can add a wine with a nutty flavour too, you will have a stunning pairing. Madeira is a white fortified wine with zingingly refreshing acidity and a characteristic hazelnut skin flavour.

TRY: Sainsbury’s Madeira, £7 for 35cl with Fiona Sciolti’s Hazelnut Praline Chocolate, £5 for 100g.

Do you have some amazing wine and choclate matches? Please share them with me here or tweet me @TheWinebird!

WB x

Easter wine recommendations

This week, I’ve picked some wines for each step of your Easter meal blowout! You can even taste through them for free with me this weekend at the Ideal Home Show in  Olympia. Come and see me in the food & drink theatre for some free samples. Yippee!

SPARKLING WINE

Wiston Estate Brut NV: Wiston EstateWe’re feeling patriotic this Easter, so what better to drink than a top class English fizz? I’ve chosen a wine that’s as beautiful outside as it is inside: Wiston Estate sparkling Brut NV (£24.95 from Corney & Barrow). This is the wine that the Queen used to launch the brand new, 141,000 tonne P&O liner Britannia two weeks ago. An enormous bottle called a nebuchadnezzar holding twenty one bottles of worth was used and yes, it smashed perfectly. This wine is made with roughly equal parts of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These are the same grapes that go onto Champagne and they’re grown on the similarly chalky slopes of the Sussex downs.

VINALOGY: If Champagne is the Movie Star of sparkling wines, then English fizz is like Emma Watson; a quintessentially  English film actress, youthful, sometimes a little angular, yet still elegant with amazing potential to age. Crystal clear, pure and classy.

Food match: Drink it on its own, but it sings with salmon and seafood.

WHITE WINE

corder chardonnayCorder Family Cool Climate Chardonnay: Don’t recoil in horror from the C-word; this chardonnay from Elgin in South Africa is lusciously tropical and packed with ripe melon fruit, but it’s beautifully fresh with it.

VINALOGY: Think Kate Hudson: a girl next door type rather than a bubonic-boobied glamour model. A tiny touch of oak gives is a subtle caramel flavour, but there’s nothing synthetic or sickly about this delicious, golden wine. Find it for £11.99 at Capelondon.co.uk. It’s part of my Winebird’s starter case to get to know grape varieties!

Food match: Perfect with roast chicken and poultry with creamy sauces.

RED WINE

Momo pinotMomo Pinot Noir: : Pinot Noir (the grape) makes wines that feel like white wines, but taste like red. They are silky and elegant and when from New Zealand like this one, can show lovely ripe cherry fruit with bergamot notes. Find it from Capelondon.co.uk for £13.99. It’s also part of my Winebird starter case to help you get to know grape varieties.

VINALOGY: This is Audrey Hepburn in a cherry silk gown sipping Earl Grey tea. Soft, feminine and strokable!

Food match: Kiwi Pinot loves duck and lamb, especially with red fruit trimmings like a sour cherry sauce.

PUDDING WINE

fletcher's portFletcher’s Ruby Port NV: Chocolate, especially commercial milk chocolate, makes a very hard match for wine but a fortified red such as this ruby Port or a Maury or a Banyuls from France will be able to stand up to the sweetness and de-claggify your mouth! Yes, that is a word. Well, now it is. The Fletcher’s Ruby Port is outstanding value at just £6.49 from ALDI.

VINALOGY: Full-bodied, bright red and with plenty of spirit. Ruby Port is the father Christmas of wine!

If you’d like to taste these wines (and more) or free, come and see me this weekend (28th & 29th  March) at the IDEAL HOME SHOW at Olympia. I’m also running sessions on wine & chocolate and Old World Vs New World wines.

Mother’s day wine gift ideas

No one needs wine more than mothers. I know this because I have two children under four. The bouncy spaniel and shouty cat don’t help matters either; you can image what my house looks like. Anyhoo, here are a couple of things I’ve found that could make lovely mother’s day wine gifts.

Corkcicle Air – £19.99

corkcicle airThe wine gift that keeps your wine cool from the inside and aerates as it pours. Simple, but very effective! Watch my unboxing video for more:

‘Click for Clicquot’ – Veuve Clicquot rosé Champagne afternoon tea – £50 p.p.

Click for Clicquot (smaller)At the click of a button, you can treat mum to a stunning afternoon tea complete with scones, sandwiches, tea and a glass of Veuve Clicquot rosé Champagne at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London. All you need to do is purchase through the app (itunes link here) and the recipient will receive a text message alerting them to their gift. They (or you) can then book for whenever the fancy takes them. How gloriously modern! (Reservations can be made by calling +44 (0) 20 7841 4840 or emailing stpancraschambers@renaissancehotels.com.

cape london logo Winebird starter case from Cape London  – £56.99

Six bottles; six superhero grape varieties, all with a new world accent. Get my book free with it while stocks last! Getting to know the characteristics of key grapes is where you start when you want to get into wine, so I’ve chosen six wines made with six different grape varieties. Open all six, compare and contrast them and call it a party! Please drink responsibly though, obviously…

Wine Flu T-shirts & hoodies. From £18.95

wine flu woneb

Nuff said, really. I like these a lot and they come in several colours and styles. See more at spreadshirt.co.uk

For more gift ideas, check out my wine product reviews on YouTube.

Happy gifting!

WB x

Why wine on TV and Youtube is like rugby stars making after dinner speeches

Winebird:

Do you agree? What is the answer for wine on TV? Thoughts please!

Originally posted on the joseph report:

I thought that you’d want what I want. Sorry my dear…

Send in the Clowns. Stephen Sondheim

Over the years, I’ve been at a number of wine competition awards presentations and similar wine events in London at which the after-dinner speech was presented to a multinational audience by a famous sports personality. On every occasion, I found the speaker highly entertaining and amusing but often, looking around the room, I made a mental note never to invite him or her to speak at any similar event for which I happened to be responsible. Why not? Because a significant proportion of the guests were not ‘getting’ it. References to Botham or ‘Blowers’ by a legendary former England batsman went straight over their heads, either because they hailed from a country that doesn’t apply willow to leather, or because – even as Brits, Antipodeans or South Africans – they just happened not to be cricket fans. Rugby stars may have…

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Beaujolais Ganache Truffles: A Valentine’s recipe

beaujolais trufflesIf you’d seen the state of some macaroons I once made and the fact that I burnt pizza last Friday, you might have thought twice about suggesting I knock up some chocolate truffles. This was a challenge that involved chocolate and Beaujolais wine however, so there was simply no way it wasn’t going to happen. I’m actually pretty chuffed with the results, so thought I would share this very easy recipe by the talented chocolatier Fiona Sciolti (more on her below). Stick them in a basket with a bottle of Beaujolais and it makes a lovely Valentine’s gift with a personal touch.

louis tete winebirdFor the Beaujolais, try to find the Louis Tete Brouilly 2012/2013 (M&S £10.99) as the recipe was designed with this particular wine in mind, but any Brouilly (one of the ten Beaujolais ‘Cru'; It’s a quality thing), should do. See my Vinalogy overview of Beaujolais here if you’re new to the style and want to know more.

Beaujolais Ganache Truffles – A  recipe by Fiona Sciolti

150 g Fairtrade dark chocolate (65-75% cocoa content)

75ml Beaujolais, room temperature

20g Maple syrup

20g Mild olive oil

50g Cocoa sieved together with1 heaped tsp of icing sugar

Method

Here’s my video with the steps which shows how easy it is!

Amazing Chocolate

image (15)In my gift basket, I also found some stunning chocolates designed by Fiona Sciolti to match the Louis Tete Beaujolais. The Peruvian dark chocolate complemented the acidity and fruitiness of the wine, which really impressed me.  They were so beautiful too and looked like grapes, complete with glimmering purple sheen! This lady can do anything with chocolate and everything is handmade and naturally flavoured. I will be sending @winehusband in this direction; he will not be getting his hands dirty this year. scioltichocolates.com

Discover all that Beaujolais has to offer here on the official Discover Beaujolais site.

Let me know how those truffles turn out!

WBx

4 tips to start speaking wine language

Part two of my video series on wine basics: 4 tips to start speaking wine language

Like this? Please tell you friends and subscribe to my channel for more videos! All content can be found in my book: Winebird’s VINALOGY: wine basics with a twist!

Do you have a wine question? Tweet me @TheWinebird or leave a comment below.

WB x

London Wine Scene: Cape London

What’s new on the wine scene right now? Today’s profile is on Cape London: “Britain’s brightest, tastiest retailer, where the wines all have stories to tell”.

cape londonI was naturally intrigued when the email came in asking me to meet Andy Leach and Tony Cooper, the founders of Cape London. I mean, check out that logo! A quick look at their site and their hilarious Twitter feed told me instantly that these were people who had started a project to spend more time with their favourite subject rather than simply to sell wine, so I went to find out more. Indeed, they describe themselves as enthusiasts rather than experts and this refreshing approach is reflected in what they do. Yes, on paper Cape London could be seen as just another online wine merchant, but people buy from people and enthusiasm and fun, so this is why I think this team will go far.

MeerlustThe explore factor

Cape London is a ‘principality of wine’, they say with a portfolio that’s still growing. With a strong bias for South African wines and other New World countries, about 50% of their wines are exclusive to them with the other 50% being excellent, well known producers such as Dog Point, Klein Constantia and Meerlust Rubicon. The thinking behind this which I like very much is that with wine, people often start with what they know. Then, once they know and trust you, they can be encouraged to try different things.

Choosing wines by occasion

When the Cape Londoners pour wines, they won’t be telling you what you should be tasting. Instead, it’s about setting the scene where the wine in question would be perfect. A pre lunch footy/cricket/rugby game on a lazy Sunday afternoon, perhaps? A sun-soaked afternoon by the pool? Yep. That’ll do nicely. An when you go to their website, you’ll see that there is a story behind the label of every single producer and wine.

Putting something back

women in wineThe great thing about designing a wine merchant from scratch is that you can add elements that mean something to you and make a difference. Cape London has the  Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund as their official charity partner.  They have also teamed up with the Women in Wine of South Africa to give them a store front in the UK. Women in Wine is an inspirational  group of black women from Stellenbosch who were determined to give women a bigger voice in the South African wine industry and you can read more about them here.

Check out Cape London’s website at www.capelondon.co.uk and

Follow them on twitter @CapeLondonWine

Have you tasted their wines yet? Have you had experiences with them? Check them out and let me know what you think!

WBx

Winebird’s Wine Wednesday Wecommendations

Happy 2015 everybody! PAH to dry January, I say. If you’re still tasting, here are two very different reds that have blown me off my perch:
image (10) The lighter red: Montes Pinot Noir 2012pinot montes winebird

A Chilean Pinot that looks pale and interesting is actually quite hard to come by, but this is it! Soft and silky, this is more in line with a lighter New Zealand style with is spicy, baked cherry-wrapped in velvet deliciousness. Easy drinking and elegant. Stockists: Circa £12.99 from Noel Young Wines, Sheldon’s Wine Cellars, Whole Foods Market Kensington. 

See my VINALOGY video for down and dirty basics on the Pinot Noir grape.

The knock-your-socks-off red: Plaisir de Merle Grand Plaisir 2010

merle winebird

You know the expression ‘a curl up by the fire wine’? Well, this is exactly that. Brooding, rich and structured like a big chabal winebirdpair of arms giving you a cuddle. Made from a ‘field’ blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Petit Verdot (18%), Malbec (6%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Shiraz (15%) and Merlot (6%) from the Paarl wine region in South Africa. A pro rugby player of a wine if ever I tasted one. Class and brawn. Yum! Stockist: £20 from M&S. Well worth splashing out.

 

See my VINALOGY video on why Cabernet Sauvignon is the rugby player of wine grapes.

Cin cin!

WBX