Opinion

Terroir and tastings: Pairing wine and chocolate has never been so delicious

Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak travels to Italy and Washington state to discover some wonderful wine and chocolate pairings

January 9, 2013
Bernie
Bernie Pacyniak

Recent trips have —and I’m truly grateful for this — further enlightened me about wine and its wonderful connection to confections. Mind you, I’ve always been a wannabe wine aficionado. Although I’m a great enthusiast, I regret to say my knowledge level and experience isn’t quite anywhere it should be.

Hence, whenever I have the opportunity to, let’s say, pump up the wine wisdom, I don’t hesitate. In late November, I had an opportunity to travel to the Piedmont area of Italy, specifically in and around Alba, Italy.

In our February issue, you’ll get a chance to read about three wonderful Italian companies: Domori, Baratti & Milano and Tecno-3. The first two are producers of chocolate and confections, the last one an innovative equipment supplier to both.

If any of you have ever travelled to Italy, you realize that food and wine are critically important to nearly every Italian. During my time in Italy, my host, Bruno Porro, managing director of Tecno-3, ensured I had sampled the region’s specialties and wines. Molto bene.

However, it wasn’t all food and wine. I spent some time visiting Domori, which is headed up by Gianluca Franzoni, otherwise known as the Shaman of Cacao. If you’re into pure chocolate, I’d have to say that the Domori line is truly some of the best I’ve ever sampled.

And Franzoni is also one of the most passionate and committed individuals I’ve ever talked to regarding fine flavor cacaos. His efforts in preserving Criollo varieties at the Hacienda San Jose plantation, a cooperative venture in Venzuela, are legendary.

As he points out, “Seventy-five percent of a fine chocolate’s value lies with genetics, post-harvesting techniques. The remaining 25% belongs to processing. You can’t change the value of the raw material.”

Consequently, for Franzoni , developing  terroir (that French word explaining the soil’s impact on agriculture, often associated with wine) for cacao is as important as any vintner’s relationship to the earth.

As he remarks, “I look at working with chocolate similar to being a winemaker. I simply want to enhance the potential that is in the field.”

Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to visit a winery in Northern Italy, thanks to Monica Chiarle, who works for Tecno 3 in the export sales department. Chiarle is, and again as are most Italians I’ve come to know, very attuned to the region’s food culture and was at one time a sommelier for a local wine company.

She convinced winemaker Claudio Roggero from Castello Di Nieve to give us a personal tour of the winery, which happens to be housed in a castle. Castello Di Nieve makes several beautiful wines, including some fantastic Barbarescos, Barbera D’Alba and Moscatos (www.castellodineive.it).

It was fascinating to hear about the winery’s history and, of course, terroir.

As it so happens, Baratti & Milano produces several wine-infused bars, which feature a 6% alcohol content involving Barbaresco, Moscato, Pinot Noir and champagne. Typically, most chocolates infused with alcohol can only go to a 2.5-3% level, but thanks to an emulsifying process developed jointly by Baratti & Milano and Tecno-3, the bars pack a bigger alcoholic content.

My wine and chocolate experience in Italy dovetailed with a wine and confections pairing in Washington, home to Brown & Haley and Precept Wine (www.preceptwine.com). As you’ll discover in our February issue (it really is jam-packed with good stuff), the two companies, which are local icons, have co-promoted their products.

In mid-December, I was again fortunate enough to be invited to a formal wine and confections pairing involving Brown & Haley’s Roca line (Almond, Cashew, Dark and Mocha) with Precept Wine’s Waterbrook line of wines.

chocolate and wine
Brown & Haley's Almond Roca pairs well with wine. Photo by Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak. 

Winemaker Hal Landvoigt guided me and Brown & Haley’s Pierson Clair, president and ceo, and John Melin, coo, through the tastings and pairings. I know some of you are already jealous, but seriously, I actually had to spit some of the wines out.

Again, it was as Landvoigt mentioned, a classic example of how wines can both complement and contrast foods, or in this case, some really special confections. As many of you know, Washington has become known for its special terrior, and the Waterbrook range of wines accents that connection.

Interestingly, the partnership between Brown & Haley and Precept has led to the two releasing an Almond Roca Cream, a wonderfully sweet and flavorful drink that’s essentially liquid Almond Roca.

I recognize I’ve only scratched the surface involving the connections between wine and confections. It is, however, one that I see continuing to expand and grow. Cheers.   

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