Corney & Barrow, London
In a nutshell: Don’t shy away from the notoriously difficult wine and chocolate pairing. You may even discover more about your own palate in the process.
Tell us more …
“A friend of mine set up Cocoa Runners about seven years ago, doing what we do for wine but for chocolate. He goes around the world seeking out artisan producers who produce bean-to-bar chocolate and we started, for fun, trying to pair chocolate and wine. We tried to look for subtle pairings between really fantastic flavourful chocolate and both red and white wines, so not just the standard port or Pedro Ximenez wines.
“Over time we started to develop a bit of an understanding of certain grape varieties that work and the styles or winemaking techniques that formed an accord with particular chocolate beans.”
Would you say there is a natural synergy between wine and chocolate?
“Yes! Just as in the wine world we have the thing of swirling the glass and allowing the aromas to come up and then holding the wine in your mouth – it’s like holding the chocolate in your mouth and letting it melt and understanding it’s not just about the percentage of cocoa, but about how it’s been made; the techniques or the variety of bean. The way we might extract tannins or let the wine rest in oak and have batonnage and things like that to make something more creamy, it compares to the way they might conche the chocolate, stir it and so forth. It’s absolutely fascinating and it’s really good fun. I think in pairing these parallel worlds of wine and chocolate you discover a bit more about yourself in how you taste and what your preferences are.”
The tastings are in November. Is this the best time of year for them?
“I think Spencer at Cocoa Runners can generally find the summer months quite difficult, maybe because people are thinking of their bikinis! But it gets to about this time of year and people really want good chocolate. For example, there was a chocolate fair last weekend at Kings Cross and they had 5,000 people pop in.
“People behind the products were showing their wares, and again, just like with wine, consumers want to learn about the provenance and the authenticity of a product. The chocolate tastes wonderful and the packaging is absolutely amazing so of course it’s great for gifting.”
Will you continue with the tastings in the Zoom format?
“Definitely. I think virtual tastings are here to stay. They are convenient in that you don’t have to factor in the expense of a babysitter or a taxi. Cocoa Runners were already doing a lot of consumer events before lockdown and then they were very up-and-at-them with their Zooms during lockdown so they had an established format. We drew on some of the pairings we’d made already and rolled them out into tastings. We can open a window onto a new experience and get people to taste along with us. It’s a really fun experience.
“Also, I find one of the most difficult things about making wine accessible and fun for people is that tastings can be intimidating. We use an online tool called Menti. You can input things anonymously and they all come up on screen at once.
“Virtual tastings offer so many benefits and learning opportunities that I hadn’t anticipated before lockdown.”
So chocolate and wine is a good thing?
“I do think craft chocolate is a really good add-on for wine merchants and it is an area that will develop. Chocolate made this way is better for you and for the planet.”
Rebecca wins a WBC gift box containing some premium drinks and (appropriately) a box of chocolates.
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