An hour and a half on matching fine wine and chocolate and every pairing a winner? Impossible I would have said. But in the experienced hands of Roberto Bava, not only a winemaker but the President of the Italian chocolate society, the Compagnia del Ciccolatto, the tasting ran as smoothly as clockwork.
Bava is a bit of joker who wears his expertise lightly. “This is not such a serious masterclass - we are looking for pleasure” he started. Among the eight pairings were hazelnut praline with his own 4.5% Moscato d’Asti (“a wine we recommend for drivers, children, joggers and lovers - it gives you energy for long performances . . . “), a 2003 Recioto della Valpolicella with a chocolate-covered fig (“when you have tannin in wine I recommend you have a chocolate that contains milk or fruit”) and a 20 year old Ramos Pintoport with the first ever public showing of a pure, clean Oioio Otonga 70% Ecuador Guaranda, a limited edition chocolate which had been released to to raise funds to help educate children in the rainforest. Another project in which the energetic Bava is involved.
Another good tip from the maestro - chocolate like red wine should be stored at 15-18° C, rather than at room temperature. “But don’t eat it too cool or you won’t get the flavour.”
*Most surprising fact to come out of the class
How good milk chocolate could taste. Anyone who reels at the thought of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk should try the Slitti Lattenero, a creamy, medium bodied chocolate with 51% cocoa solids - wonderful with a 1999 Selvapiana Vin Santo which brought out a delicious flavour of caramel in the combination
*Highlight of the class
A Barolo Chinato from Giulio Cocchi with a praline made, again by Slitti, from the same wine. One of the wine world’s intriguing rarities - a barolo infused with 25 different herbs and spices, including, most prominently, quinine. The praline just echoes the astringent flavours gently modifying them to create a perfect balance of richness and bitterness
*Most contentious issue
Hardly contentious - by the end we were all in a blissful chocolate-induced stupor - but what came closest to controversy was whether a chocolate made from 100% cocoa solids was too extreme - even with an ultra-sweet Napoleon PX Viejo. The majority view was that it was. A similar chocolate of 73% was much easier on the palate.
*Quote of the class, from the presenter:
“It’s not necessarily true that the darker and stronger a chocolate is the better it is. The quality comes from the beans. Look at the story on the wrapper.”
For more information about events in Chocolate Week 2011 see here.