Wine writers love to fuss about food and wine matching when in fact there are only a few foods that are actually difficult to match and most of those will be sorted out by a fruity dry rosé. Chocolate however can be a challenge and that was the task myself and John Wilson of the Irish Times set ourselves at Theatre of Food this year.
First we had to have the best chocolate and thankfully this has become much easier now we have Bean-To-Bar chocolate in Ireland. Shana Wilkie of Wilkies Chocolate was the first – wilkieschocolate.ie and she sources her chocolate from two small organic farms in Peru – one in the Tumbes region and one in the Amazon. Two other good examples are Hazel Mountain in the Burren and Clonakilty Chocolate in West Cork all sourcing very carefully and grinding, conching and tempering their chocolate here in Ireland. hazelmountainchocolate.com clonakiltychocolate.com
The beans arrive in jute sacks having been fermented in the sun a little but otherwise they are completely raw and it takes a number of days to turn them into chocolate.
To match chocolate you need power. Yes a rich cabernet (especially Californian) can work and be a pleasant experience but you really need something with a bit more bite to cut through the creamy textures and balance the bitterness of good chocolate.
John went for raw milk as a first gambit and while it worked well the audience was looking for something a little stronger. Next we tried Dungarvan Blackrock Stout which easily had the power and freshness and also brought out some of the liquorice and earthy qualities in the Clonakilty and in the Wilkies Tumbes this was the crowds’ second choice.
Tullamore Dew Special Reserve (tullamoredew.com/products/12-year-old-special-reserve) 12 Year Old whiskey worked well as an all-rounder with the spice character rounding out the lighter fruit flavours.
Next up was the one John was certain would win the public vote the ne-plus-ultra of chocolate matches Mas Amiel Vin Doux Naturel from the tiny Maury IGP in Roussillon, France (Bubble Brothers, bubblebrothers.com JJ O’Driscollls Cork 375ml bottle – €20.99).
Maury is made a little like Port with some brandy added to the Grenache grapes to stop the fermentation. This really did work well with all the chocolate, particularly the Hazel Mountain 72% Venezuelan with Elderberry and Hazelnuts.
However the winner was easily the most unusual wine Querci'Antica Vino e Visciole, from La Marche, Italy sourced by me from the great Joe Karwig in Cork (karwigwines.ie – 50cl €18.95) which is a blend of wild sun-dried Visicole Cherries and headily scented Lacrima di Morro grapes. This complex cherry and violet scented delight worked with everything, particularly the darker chocolates and was the crowd’s favourite.