Why pair wine and chocolate you ask? Because it's CHOCOLATE & WINE!
It's something we have been tinkering with for quite some time, with things getting a little more serious just after a chocolate and wine pairing session held at the National Wine Centre in conjunction with Haigh's Chocolate.
Here some great wines and amazing chocolate were paired and put to the test. For us the results included some great pairings with big reds and sweet wines, but there was some trouble for the light and medium bodied dry wines. A general rule is to avoid having the chocolate sweeter than the wine as sweetness highlights harsh astringency in the wine, but here lies the problem... Dark chocolate is generally the only chocolate with suitably low sugar, however dark chocolate's powerful flavours outstrip light and medium body dry wines. For us this was a call for something different, "Challenge Accepted"!
Where to start making our own chocolate? Here some nerdy engineering came into play with the fun of researching the equipment required to make fine chocolate. We quickly realised that a big factor is called 'long conching', which is essentially finely grinding the cacao for a long period of time to form a smooth and velvety texture. We quickly realised that supermarket ingredients were not going to cut it and teamed up with Maretai Organics and Inspired Ingredients to get us started. Here comes the fun part, testing and tasting, right? Umm, no, no it doesn't, here comes seized chocolatey messes and a lesson, chocolate is a temperamental little pest.
We soon found that some more learning, experimentation and precision was required. A few learnings; reducing sugar increases the viscosity and makes things hard to work with, you can't let in ANY moisture from steam or ingredients (no Cadbury doesn't pour milk into their chocolate like on tv) and tempering requires precise control and a feel for what the chocolate is doing.
Here's a short pictorial to take you through;
Our chocolate making process...
Thanks to Maretai for the raw ingredient photos!
Mature cacao pods are removed from the tree by hand
The seeds or Cacao Beans are removed from the fruit
The Cacao beans are dried, fermented and then roasted
The beans are pitted to obtain the Cacao Nibs
Grinding the Nibs produces Cacao Paste or Liquor
Cacao Butter & Powder can be separated from the Paste
Cacao Powder is not the same as the more widely known cocoa powder, Cacao Powder has higher antioxidants and more health benefits!
Pure Cacao Butter and milk form the main ingredients of our white chocolate, with heavily reduced sugar compared to supermarket chocolates, improving the flavour and wine pairing
Grinding (or "conching") occurs with specific ratios of Cacao Paste, Cacao Butter, milk and sugar to match each wine
We then carefully temper the chocolate to form the crystalline structure that gives chocolate its shine and crisp snap
The chocolate can then be moulded to suit our needs... or just eaten :)
Some of the final products. Our "Perfect Pairing" tasters feature a pattern on top we make from a coloured cocoa butter stencil.
Ok, experiments are done and lessons learnt, now for the testing and tasting! We have tried A LOT of fun and different ingredients, combinations and chocolate recipes. Some pairings brilliantly highlighted something in the wine or chocolate and some completely stripped the other one of anything enjoyable. We have found in general the sugar we ended up with is significantly lower than a standard chocolate, which means it's much healthier ... except for the extra cacao that we use instead, but let's not worry about that :)
So far the feedback we are getting is encouraging, with most people finding highlighted flavours when using the suggested pairings.
We haven't made any general eating chocolate yet, but we are in the process of experimenting with some fun ingredients for those not looking to match with wine.
Your turn! We have created a chocolate and wine pairing experience for you at our cellar door and are keen for your thoughts on our pairings. We are planning and testing pairings for future vintages and may have some experiments at the cellar door where you can help us pick the best match.
If you would like to try it out book the experience using the button below or get touch with us.
If you are keen to experiment with your own wine & chocolate pairings, but don't have any of our custom 'Perfect Pairing' chocolate handy, you can still find some successful pairings. Here's an article I have come across that is quite good for matching standard chocolate to wine. http://wine.about.com/od/winerecommendations/a/winechocolate.htm
Thanks for reading! Sincerely,
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