“I didn’t think of chocolate as a serious career but once I got into it I became completely obsessed – there’s so much to it”
How would someone even begin to think about matching wine and chocolate?
“It’s trickier than people think. The sugar in chocolate clashes with wine, so the best bet is to go with red wine and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has tannins, as does red wine, so it’s a good starting point. The more chocolate you eat, the more you can pick out the different flavour profiles, as you would in wine.”
Where do the different flavour profiles come from?
“There are three main cocoa plant varieties that are farmed around the world. They are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. Criollo is the rarest of the three varieties, accounting for only 5% of the world’s plantings of cocoa trees. Forastero is grown mainly in Brazil, Ecuador and Africa, and makes up almost 80% of the international cocoa supply due to its hardiness and high yields. Trinitario is seen as a ‘hybrid’ of the other two varieties, combining the hardiness of the Forastero and the delicate, complex flavours of the Criollo.”
What is the difference between a chocolatier and a chocolate maker?
“Use ‘Chocolate Maker’ when talking about the process of chocolate making. Chocolate Makers work with the nibs to the finished chocolate and ‘Chocolatiers’ temper the chocolate to make into other products combined with other ingredients/flavours to make truffles, rocky road…”
Tell us a bit about the chocolate making process…
“As with winemaking, the chocolate making process allows the chocolatier (or winemaker) plenty of opportunity to control and change the flavours of the finished product. The seed pods are harvested, fermented, roasted and then ground, ready to create the chocolate. Every chocolate maker has their own recipe for roasting and grinding, much like coffee. For example, if the cocoa is ground for a long time, the texture of the finished chocolate is smoother, but the process burns off many of the flavour compounds found in the chocolate. If you grind for a short period of time, it is possible to retain many of the delicate flavour compounds in the chocolate, but the texture can feel grittier. This isn’t a bad thing, but a decision the chocolatier makes.”
“Cadbury gives chocolate a bad name – it’s such a comfort food that people don’t get the chance to take it seriously”
So if we were to match chocolate to wine, what would you suggest?
“Chocolate is one of the most complex flavour compounds, there is so much to think about when matching it to wine. Years ago, when I worked for Gabriel Chocolate in Margaret River we did a really interesting chocolate and wine matching exercise. We found that the chocolate from Java, a volcanic region, the chocolate full of smoky grassy notes, matched really well to the grassy characters of Semillon. It was so interesting. If I was to match a red wine to chocolate, I would look for the white or pink pepper notes in chocolate, and search for those in wine. I would go for Leeuwin Art Series Shiraz paired with a South American chocolate, looking for those pink peppercorn notes to match with the cool climate, elegant shiraz.”