When Candy Industry featured Guy Debbas as a chocolate trendsetter in August 2004, the food scientist-turned-chocolatier had already successfully established his own business, producing a wide range of private-label truffles, bars and specialty products for an even wider range of clients.
During the years, Guy Debbas has continued to grow this business by emphasizing creativity and craft. His motto, “We are innovators, not imitators,” has garnered the company recognition from customers and gourmet food organizations alike. Most recently, the Fresno, Calif.-based chocolatier captured Candy Industry/ECRM Kid’s Choice Award at the ECRM Candy Planning show in Denver in March 2014 for Best New Chocolate.
As Managing Editor Crystal Lindell explained, “Marshmallow candy can be so hit or miss. It’s hard to transport that fluffy, ooey-gooey fresh taste that’s created when the marshmallows are hot, right off the line. But when confectioners achieve it, it’s totally worth the effort. G. Debbas not only manages to do that, the candy maker also has dipped them in a luscious chocolate, covered them in sprinkles and put them on a stick — officially creating the most decadent lollipop ever. Yay!”
Obviously, Debbas lives by his words. But perhaps one of the most innovative creations that Debbas calls as his own is the company’s line of Liquid Wine Filled Chocolates. Using a technique he pioneered nearly 30 years ago, initially using needles to fill the truffles with wines, Debbas today supplies in excess of 350 wineries with their own chocolate truffles using their wines.
Having automated the wine-filling process — he designed his own machine to keep up with demand — Debbas also offers consumers the opportunity to experience wine and chocolate simultaneously through his G. Debbas Chocolatier line, which includes Champagne, Port, Chardonnay, White Zinfindel and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. Moreover, the company claims it’s the only chocolatier offering wine-filled chocolates without using a sugar shell to hold the wine.
As he explained to Candy Industry several years ago, “With the liquid center, the wine hits you first, and then the chocolate flavor hits. You have the wine and chocolate and at the end, you end up with chocolate. This is what we call blending the right way.”
Given Debbas’ expertise in wine as well as chocolate, Candy Industry decided to ask this expert about wine and chocolate pairing. Debbas, along with his son, Max, vice president, teamed up to provide us with some additional guidelines and insights into the wonderful world of tasting.
CI: How do you go about pairing your chocolates with wines from wineries that approach you? Do you have a protocol, such as dark chocolates with reds, milk chocolates with whites, or do you focus on the individual wines?
Debbas: We blend according to the floral note of the wine. Through the years we observed that the port was the trickiest one to blend.
CI: Do you believe chocolates should always complement wines or can they provide a creative contrast?
Debbas: All depends on the person’s mood at the time. There is no science behind acquired taste. We do not see much difference between complementing a wine or contrasting a wine, as long the pairing is going to enhance the wine bouquet.
CI: How do sparkling wines and champagnes pair with chocolates?
Debbas: This is a good example of flavor contrast. They can pair with chocolate quite well, as long as the correct chocolate is chosen.
CI: Do you prefer using solid chocolates or truffles when pairing with wines?
Debbas: Solid chocolate for wine, unless we are adding another ingredient to the chocolate. Chocolate truffles are better suited for liqueur. The idea behind pairing chocolate and wine is what led us to create our wine-filled chocolates. A simple blend of chocolate and wine.
CI: Have you ever paired chocolate, cheese and wine together?
Debbas: Yes we have created an assorted box of wine, cheese, chocolate truffles for one of the major upscale department stores that we do private label for. Feta/Fig/Malbec/Dark Chocolate Truffle is one of the flavor profiles.
CI: What was your most challenging pairing?
Debbas: The challenge was made by Mrs. Sebastiani, of Sebastiani winery. She challenged us to create a unique product that would pair chocolate and wine together. She specifically wanted a chocolate with wine without the sugary shell. And we did it! These are our Wine Filled Chocolates.
CI: And what’s your favorite pairing?
Debbas: Again all depends on the mood of the day. One day I love the cabernet in dark chocolate, another day it is the chardonnay in a blend of dark and white.