During the recent Toronto Wine and Cheese Show I had the pleasure of meeting Anna Olson, famous pastry chef, author and host of the Food Network’s “Fresh with Anna Olson” along with old acquaintance Michael Fagan from the LCBO aka the “The Matchmaker” in “Food & Drink” magazine’s column of the same name. The specific occasion was the “Wine and Chocolate” seminar held Friday night of the Toronto Wine and Cheese Show.The seminar Anna and Michael presented explored the fundamentals of pairing wines with chocolate which is always a bit of a challenge as chocolate can have and comes in many forms. Pairing a wine with a simple bar of unsweetened dark chocolate is not going to require the same criteria as pairing a wine with a rich, creamy and sweet chocolate brownie.
The lineup of wines consisted of a NCT (Niagara College Teaching Winery) 2005 Late Harvest Cabernet Franc, a McGuigan Black Label Shiraz and a W&J Graham 2003 LBV Port while the chocolate delicacies consisted of one of Anna’s famous brownies, a chocolate chip cookie and a white chocolate crusted artisanal brie. While Anna demonstrated some of her chocolate based recipes we also learned a lot about various characteristics of chocolate as well as some neat chocolate recipe tricks from her. Michael guided the group through the various possible combinations of the wines and chocolate treats presented and the attending crowd ended up leaving with an elevated understanding of what works and what doesn’t.Here is a quick Zen Gourmand summary of Wine and Chocolate pairing considerations:
- – The wine should be as sweet as or sweeter than the chocolate (fundamentally applies to pairing any dessert with a wine)
- – Heavier wines with heavier chocolate based desserts
- – Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate requires a wine that echoes roasted and bitter (tannic) flavors and possibly offer a hint of chocolate on the nose and palate (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel make good candidates)
- – For Milk Chocolate look towards a lighter bodied wine such as Pinot Noirs, light bodied Merlots, Rieslings and Muscats.
- – For White Chocolate, steer towards Sherries, Moscato d’Asti, even an Orange Muscat in order to pick up the mellow and buttery flavors and possible fruit tones.
- – Rich and creamy Chocolate Desserts and Treats call for sweeter wines such as a Port, Late Harvest Vidal or Cabernet Franc, Ice Wine, perhaps even a Tokay Azu.
Don’t forget to check out some of Anna’s books. You will find some truly amazing and easy to do recipes.