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After 5 Wine Review: Chocolate changes course with vino

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We all have questions we want answered. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What wine goes with chocolate?

If you’d have asked the “experts” even 30 years ago, they would have said, “Wine doesn’t pair with chocolate.” Traditional rules dating back to the French aristocracy governed the pairing of wines with foods, and there was no room for experimentation.

Fortunately, those rules are now antiquated, and in today’s world, you can drink what you like. If you think something tastes good together, it’s a good pairing for you, and no one else has to agree.

If you like a food or a wine better when served together than alone, that is a great pairing. If serving them together takes away from the food or the wine, that is not a good match.

The concept here is called synergy among wine aficionados. It is the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Here in Springfield, Askinosie Chocolate makes some of the best single-origin chocolates you’ll find anywhere. The question is not whether the chocolate is good, but whether it would be as enjoyable when paired with wine.

My wife, Ceecee, and I hosted some friends during Memorial Day weekend to put the wine and chocolate question to the test. We gathered some wines that were recommended for chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate provided a variety of bars, and we tested the synergy, or lack thereof, of different combinations.

Most of the wines were red. The thought was that cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and zinfandel have flavor components that seem compatible with chocolate. Tasting notes for these varietals often reference cherry, raspberry, vanilla and even cocoa.

We had very little success with cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, although the Davao, Philippines 62 percent dark milk chocolate bar earned some high marks for not being overwhelmed by the wine. The higher percentage dark chocolates seemed to create a bitterness that was neither desirable nor synergistic.

Merlot, particularly with a more full-bodied style from Hogue, Markham or Candor, had moderate success. Again, we found the dark milk to be the better match.

Of the red table wines, zinfandel was the clear winner to partner with dark chocolates. While we tasted some spectacular zins such as Bradford Mountain and Frank Family, it was a very unassuming Rancho Zabaco that stole the show.

Ceecee found the Rancho Zabaco zin had a smooth character that worked throughout the pairings and felt that it matched the Philippines 77 percent dark almost as well as the dark milk.

We poured two port wines to see if the sweetness of the fortified wines would work with the chocolates. Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny Porto has a smooth taste of caramel and nuts and went well with everything, including the white chocolate.

Most of us felt the Tawny Porto was the best wine by itself and also the best overall match. Each chocolate brought out differing characteristics of the wine, and the wine showcased differences in the chocolates.

Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Porto was the only wine to crack the Top 5 Pairings list twice, scoring very high with both the Philippines dark milk and the San José Del Tambo Nibble Bar.

We finished with Moscato d’Asti, Italy’s sweet, semisparkling wine. We’ve never found one we didn’t like, and Askinosie’s white chocolate, which didn’t go with the dry wines at all, was extraordinary with Torlasco’s Moscato D’Asti.

See more photos in our Photo Gallery.[[In-content Ad]]Askinosie Chocolate holds Chocolate 101 classes 6:30–8:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month. For $25 apiece, attendees observe and taste product at each step of the production process from bean to bar, says Shawn Askinosie, proprietor of the 514 E. Commercial St. factory. That means tasting the bean in roasted form, the ground paste (aka liquor) in raw form and with pure cane sugar added, the homemade cocoa butter and, finally, the chocolate bar.

At various times of year, the classes have a special focus, including these pairing events with Brown Derby:

• Craft beer Oct. 14, featuring Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, which buys powder and nibs to make its beer;

• Wine Feb. 10 for Valentine’s Day; and

• Scotch date to be determined, but probably in September

Check www.facebook.com/askinosie.chocolate for event updates, or call (417) 862-9900.

“It’s all from the same origin so people can see what that origin tastes like through the whole process.” – sometimes with a targeted focus, like the baking one in November and hot cocoa in December; Coffee Ethic provides coffee at each.

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