Match of the week | Chocolate and chilli cheesecake and Merlot

Match of the week

Chocolate and chilli cheesecake and Merlot

You may be unconvinced about the wisdom of incorporating chilli into achocolate cheesecake, let alone accompanying it with Merlot but bear with me!

This off-the-wall pairing is one I experienced last week at a monthly supper club in Topsham near Exeter run by a friend Marc Millon who owns a small Italian wine importing business called Club Vino. The meal was devised to celebrate his son Guy’s six week road-trip round the States this summer and as Guy also happens to be one of the collaborators on my Ultimate Student Cookbook we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Guy and his girlfriend Claire recreated the cheesecake from one they ate on their travels. Now, I must confess I’m not a normally a huge fan of cheesecake, let alone chocolate ones but I have to say it was a triumph, the spiciness of the chilli and the tanginess of the lime cutting through the richness of the chocolate and cheese.

It also tasted curiously good with the Californian Merlot I was drinking - an inexpensive label called Wandering Bear. Merlot is a grape variety that is often described as having chocolatey notes itself but these would not normally be in evidence when paired with chocolate. But with this particular cheesecake it tasted great - the chilli and lime zest bringing out all its lush fruitiness.

You can try this trick with other soft full-bodied reds and chocolate for adventurous guests though I don’t promise it will always hit the spot. But it stands to reason when you think of it. Chocolate almost always works with red berries so why not with a drink that incorporates those flavours (port being another example)? Just don't try it with a wine with marked acidity or one that is too tannic.

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