Monday, 25 October 2010

Wine and chocolate matching with William Curley

With Chocolate Week in full flow last week, I was invited to a wine and chocolate matching event with master chocolatier William Curley, hosted by Quintessentially Wine at Curley's Belgravia shop.

Much has been made of wine and chocolate matching, and I was keen to hear from the master chocolatier as to whether he thinks there's anything in it.

Eight pairings were put forward, with wine writer Matthew Jukes picking the wines, and Curley the chocolates. Interestingly, only one of the eight wines was sweet. Jukes begins by telling us he's bored with the cliché that chocolate can only be matched with sweet wine, and tonight aims to prove that dry wine can pair equally well.

I admire his risk taking, and championing of daring pairings, but as I scale down white wine heavy list, I wonder whether he'll be able to pull it off. First up we try Ayala NV Champagne with a thyme & Scottish heather honey chocolate. Elegant and smooth with herbal notes, the chocolate is very pleasant, but I'm not wowed by the Champagne match.

Next up is a JJ Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2007, paired with a jasmin choc. The wine has an intensely limey, slate-like nose, but the white flower and honey notes on the palate mirror the jasmin in the chocolate, bringing the pairing into balance. I'm hopeful for what's to come. The second of the still whites is an Etienne Sauzet La Tufera Burgundy 2008, paired with a wonderfully textured Piedmont hazelnut chocolate. While the mineral and citrus notes in the wine don't echo those of the chocolate, the hazelnut seems to bring out the brioche and wild honey notes in the wine. The best match so far...

Moving on to the reds, we try Curley's best seller, and the chocolate all chocolatiers are judged by: sea salt caramel, with a slightly mismatched garriguey Roussillon 2008. We then munch on a mint chocolate paired with a 2005 Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvingnon from South Australia's Terracotta-soiled Coonawarra region.

This is easily the best pairing of the night. The minty, medicinal, black currant fuelled wine is the epitome of what a Coonawarra Cab should be. Decadent and velvety on the palate, it fuses effortlessly with the chocolate, that attacks the palate pleasingly with a blast of fresh mint.

The penultimate pairing is inspired: 2006 Rene Rostaing Cuvée Classique from the Cote Rotie with a szechuan pepper chocolate. The peppery Syrah becomes even more pronounced after a bite of the chocolate, bringing the pepper to the fore from the savoury, gamey flavours. Last up we are treated to a sweet wine: 2006 Clos Dady Sauternes, matched with William's take on the Jaffa Cake.

Sipping the Sauternes and nibbling the Jaffa Cake, all the flavours intertwine until the one becomes indistinguishable from the other. The tangy marmalade in the wine perfectly compliments the orange in the Jaffa Cake. It occurs to me why chocolate is traditionally matched with Port, Sherry and Sauternes, and not dry wines. The pairings work. They make sense. There's a synergy there, a harmony, a fusion of flavours. I'm all for daring pairings, and pushing the creative envelope, but sometimes tradition wins out over innovation.

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