Wine And Chocolate - The perfect pairing.

Wine And Chocolate – The perfect pairing.

 


Milky chocolate ways…

A Pinot Noir, lighter-bodied Malbec or Merlot could all complement a bar of milk chocolate, a creamy chocolate mousse or chocolate accented cheesecake. Rieslings, or dessert wines tend to hold up well to mild milk chocolates. A sparkling wine or Champagne goes well  with strawberries dipped in milk chocolate as the subtle fruit flavors on these wines will give the dessert a little punch for a perfect evening!

Nutty flavors!

Chocolates that contain any kind of nuts will go very well with a nutty flavored wine, so try to pair them with a Port, a Burgundy red wine or a Sherry. Perhaps a “Pouilly-Fuisse” will match perfectly and will bring out those aromatic nutty characteristics right at the end of the palate  in a subtle way.

Last but not least… the bitter the better…

Dark or bittersweet chocolates need a wine that offer a roasted, robust flavor, with perhaps a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabernets and Zinfandels have a history of perfecting the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. These two will more than fill your chocolate pairing expectations. I like to drink a Pinot Noir or a Merlot with dark chocolate around the 55% cocoa mark. Finally, give a French Bordeaux or a Vintage Port a go to offer a very well balanced pairing approach to a dark chocolate dessert or truffle at least 60-70% cacao for a phenomenal result!

All this wine and food pairings you can try on your own, at a wine tasting  or in some really good restaurants, but keep in mind that you have to take one for the team, and experiment as much as you can with all this goodies!

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When it comes to pairing food and wine, the secret lies in using all the right ingredients. We all know chocolate and wine are an amazing duo since both have complex flavors, notes, and have similar components and nuances in common. Find the right wine to complement the right chocolate and you will get a winning combo that proves there is a heaven somewhere to be found, and if it exists it´s filled with wine & chocolate. So here are some great tips for whenever you want to match these two gastronomy deities:

When pairing wines with chocolate, try to match light, subtle, elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines. Likewise the stronger and bitter the chocolate gets, the more full-bodied the wine should be. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it will display. However, when you pair this darker chocolate with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more fruit flavors show through the wine.

But also keep in mind that wine and chocolate  are not a straightforward pairing. Sometimes finding the best wine and chocolate combinations can take some time and a bit of experimenting as well. Remember palate impressions differ from person to person. And your individual perception can be very different from those you are tasting (and testing) with. For some they prefer the wine to be as sweet as the chocolate, for others they might want to find contrast/balance between the two.

White chocolates….
tend to be soft, mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for a Sherry, Muscats or even a floral/fruity but dry wine like a Torrontes! These sweet wines will pick up the creaminess of the chocolates and the fruity dry ones will pick up any fruit tones on the scene. Another route, for pairing wine with white chocolate is going for the contrast pairing approach which is a little riskier, but when you find a match it can be exceptional. Take a wine like a Zinfandel or a Rose which tend to have a heavier acidic content and often a higher alcohol level, and partner it with a creamy, buttered white chocolate and you might experience an unusually exciting effect.

Before 2004, or so, nobody had ever heard of Malbec (unless you are a total and utter wine geek!). The reason for the explosion of malbec in the world market is really the 2002 economic crisis in Argentina. Well that was the catalyst at least. The story of malbec in Mendoza goes back to Paul Hobbs in the late 1980s visiting Nicolas Catena, the owner of the Catena Zapata winery (the biggest bodega in Argentina). Basically, it is said that Hobbs told Catena that he needed to invest in modern winemaking techniques in order to transform his wines into an exportable product.

Catena followed Hobbs’ advice and invested in things like oak barrels and stainless steel tanks in order to make better wines. Another recommendation by Hobbs and the other flying wine makers like Michel Rolland and Alberto Antonini was to start planting Malbec. Prior to this time, Bonarda had been the most widely planted grape in Argentina. Bonarda was great for making high yield, low quality wine… basically bulk wine, that in Argentina was called Dama Juana (Lady Jane in English). This wine was consumed with ice or soda water (as you still see in Buenos Aires today!) and not really appreciated the way that one would at an luxurious wine tasting in Buenos Aires.

 

Malbec Vines, Club Tapiz

Malbec it was said, by the flying wine makers, would do very well in the terroir of Mendoza. The dry, high altitude climate and poor soils would create a naturally pest free environment for malbec to thrive in. Malbec had a problem with humidity in its native France in that its thin skins made it prone to disease and rot and fungus. Not good things if you want to let your grapes ripen on the vine! So Catena and the other wine makers listened and started planting malbec. The rest of the history of Argentina wine in a few….

Like many people new to Argentina and the world of it’s wines, I had never heard of Torrontes before setting foot in this country. My wine experience included trips throughout Europe and California’s famous Napa and Sonoma Valleys, but not once had I ever heard of this very special grape. It was not until my first wine tasting experience in Mendoza that I learned about this flagship white wine of Argentina and its amazing unique profile. With a bouquet of sweet, floral aromas the scent is captivating… but also, completely misleading! The taste is dry, the wine is smooth and your mouth is left feeling refreshed and satisfied. 

white_wine_and_glass

 
So it’s not surprising that exportation of this grape in the world market is at an all-time high. In a recent article on WineSur.com, Argentine winemakers were asked to talk about the 2012 Torrontes’ characteristics and give their thoughts on how consumers across the globe are finding a new favorite with this varietal. A lot of importance is placed upon the fact that Torrtones is no longer just a pre-dinner drink, or post-meal wine, but something that can now be perfectly paired with great meals. As I learned from many wine tastings here in Buenos Aires, the floral notes of this wine pair perfectly with lemongrass or coriander undertones of most Thai or Asian cooking– a type of food typically difficult to pair.  With certainty, the Torrontes is now my “go to” when enjoying my favorite Thai curries or spicy foods (even thought they are so hard to get in Buenos Aires – I usually make my own!), especially since my previous Malbec pairings usually brought out a bit too much pepper on the palate and left me unsatisfied, which would happen with nearly any red wine. 
 
The article also discusses their take on the 2012 vintages that are yet to be released and how the feel the grape is looking to express itself in a market that now is eagerly awaiting its arrival. Although the climate included a bit more wet weather and cloud coverage than in previous years, winemakers felt certain that the Torrontes maintained its “greater natural acidity, offering fresh wines with a citric profile” and “aromas of white flowers” that are commonly associated with this varietal. The quote that may sum it up best was from Adiran Meyer, the winemaker from Terrazas de Los Andes in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza. He feels that the “2012 Torrontés wines from Cafayate preserve a good expression of white and citrus fruits, and in some cases they show light herbal notes that boost its freshness. In general, they boast good acidity, moderate alcohol level and a medium body. The 2012 harvest stands out for its elegance and aromatic accuracy.” Sign me up for when those vintages are released! 
 
There is no better way to carry on exploring these time old question than with…

“The older the wine the better”


This is a concept that has been inherited from the old world. By old world I basically mean every European country that develops wine, excluding the UK. The UK has too young an industry, commerically speaking, to be classified as ‘old world’ so, along with every other wine producing region of the the world, it is known as  new world, new world wines to be precise …yes, the UK DOES produce wine by the way!). 
A fundamental difference between the two wine worlds is the climate. For example, in France it rains far more than the vines actually need. For that reason they are generally required to harvest the grapes before they are fully ripe, which then forces the winemakers to the keep the wine in bottle for several years so it can evolves into a balanced and drinkable wine.
300 years of excellent French wine marketing turned a potentially serious problem into an opportunity for distinction of class wine. Throughout the world today the concept of aging wine before releasing it to the market is strongly established in the minds of the wine drinker.

On the other side of the spectrum, in the new world wines it tends to rain a lot less than the plant needs, so it is imperative that the winemaker waits until the fruits have reached optimum levels of ripeness before harvest.  The resulting wine is one which can be drunk in it’s youthful stages of life without any problems. Of course, some of these wines also have the potential to be aged in oak, which will add greater complexity and evolve the wine further.


Apart from old world versus new world, there is of course, always a question of quality (which you can see excellent examples of in Argentine wine). If the winemaker has a good quality grape to begin with, then it will have the substance and ability to stand up to the powerful flavour of oak and can therefore start it’s liquid life aging in oak barrels, while also having balanced alcohol, good acidity and robust tannins; all factors which give a wine storage capacity. But not all wines are made to save. Some grapes which have experienced a undesirable growing season or have not been grown in the best conditions will of course not be top quality. These grapes do not have the power to compete with oak flavours and maturation in oak barrels, therefore will taste nothing short of vinegar on the outcome. In this case wines should be drunk and enjoyed in their youthful state.

Wines will always evolve for the better or for the worse but, ultimately, it is up to the drinker to decide what is superior, depending on their tastes, which are of course, all individually different, whether that be preference for the first the fruity flushes of flavour in the wines youth or a desire to uncover the complex, diverse aromas of evolution (leather, mushrooms, chocolate, etc.) of aged wine….it really is up to you!

So it is…..a Myth!

Unless…wine improves with age: the older I get, the better I like it!

During my time attending and giving Argentina wine tastings, I have seen and heard (and of course, tasted) some of the most interesting wines, some surprising, occasionally shocking but most of the time monotonus…it is the one point that always surprises me; the number of repeat questions or beliefs about wine that I come across over and over again. It appears that you folks out there all have similar queries about the basic aspects of the world of wine. What is right? What is wrong? What is the truth…or did that wine waiter tell me a load of codswallop? Well, I’m going to examine some of these more popular questions and clear it up for once and for all, determine the real myths and truths of wine. 

“Wine is best enjoyed from a wine glass” – YES!

The aromas of wine can “escape” easily from a tumbler glass; however they remain concentrated in a wine glass due to its rounded form allowing the consumer to obtain the best perception of the characteristics of the wine. Wine glasses should be filled no higher than half of the glass so the empty upper half can act as a chamber to capture the aromas, enhancing the different scents, giving more of them to waft up your nose!

Another essential aspect of the wine glass is the way in which we drink from it and how the glass itself delivers the wine to the mouth, entering on the tip of the tongue and continuing down the centre. The tongue is a very important tool for judging aspects of the wine such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness and sourness.
The tip of the tongue is where sweetness is perceived. When tasting wine, the idea is to try to get an idea of the the level of sweetness first, and then let the wine pass to other sectors of the tongue to obtain a fuller picture of its characteristics. Imagine drinking from a wine glass versus a tumbler glass. When drinking from a tumbler you open your mouth wider, while the glass delivers liquid to the mouth quickly and in larger quantities giving you a “full mouth”, therefore wine would miss the tip of the tongue and be concentrated in areas to the sides of and below the tongue where we have more perception of acidity in the wine, which is not always as pleasant.

So it is…the Truth. Wine is best enjoyed from a wine glass!

“Wine should be drunk at room temperature.” 

Define what room temperature is. Certainly the sweltering room temperature here in Buenos Aires during the summer is not the same as the chilly winter room temperatures that we can experience back in the UK. 
This basic element of wine service is one of the main problems that can affect the outcome of red wine in particular. Full bodied red wine should be served between 16 and 18 ° C, where by it should be drank at that or no more than 20 ° C. If you do receive a warm wine in a restaurant, ask for an ice bucket to cool it. Why you ask me? That sounds like it’s is going against everything I’ve been told about red wine? Well, it is necessary due the manner in which aromas, tannins and alcohol function at different temperatures. If a full bodied red wine is too cold the aromas will be suppressed as will the alcohol, but the tannins will be very apparent whereas if the wine is served too warm then again your will have lessened aromas but heightened the perception of alcohol whilst lowering the tannins giving the consumer very unbalanced and unpleasant wines on both accounts. Tannins, aromas and alcohol can work in equilibrium when they are at the correct temperature of 16 and 18 ° C for red wines, however lighter red with less tannins and whites are served at cooler temperatures to suppress the alcohol and to bring out more fresh characteristics of the wines.

The ignorance of this temperature fact contributes to one of the main problems that lead to consumer dissatisfaction, mainly for women, who are naturally more sensitive to high alcohol/tannins in red wines.

So what temperatures are the ‘right’ temperatures?

Sparkling wines: 6-8º C

Sweet white wines:  6 to 10º C

Dry white wines: 8 to 12º C
Rose: 8 to 12º C

Light Reds: 14 to 16º C
Full Body Reds: 16 to 18º C

For those who do not carry a thermometer around in there pocket all day long, the best way to judge if a full bodied wine is acceptable or not is to simply touch the bottle by hand. It should feel neither hot nor cold and it should be fresh. If the wine is too warm, 15 minute in the fridge is normally enough to bring it to the optimum temperature.

So it is….a myth!

There are more myths and truths to come so keep an eye out and (possibly) the wine in the fridge!

If you come to a Buenos Aires wine tasting you will hear a lot of terms you have never heard before. Most of these terms will refer to how to properly taste and analyze the wine your drinking. Of course you can enjoy a bottle of Argentine wine without knowing these terms but for those who want to turn their passion for wines into knowledge the next few terms I will define are the building blocks necessary for one who wants to become a master of wine.

wine_smell_sm

First in this article I will cover all you need to know about “the nose” of a wine. In the simplest terms the nose describes the scent or the aroma of the wine. However, unless it is a very bad wine the nose of the wine is not simple at all. The aroma of each different wine is distinct. Before attending a few Argentine wine tastings I thought the only thing I could smell in wine was grapes and alcohol. Now when I am trying a new bottle of boutique Argentine wine I get a range of aromas coming from wine. Depending on the bottle I can smell fruity aromas like red fruit and black fruit along with other aromas like chocolate, pepper, and leather. The nose is also important in analyzing if the wine is still good or not. Basically if it smells like gas or burning tires I would get a different bottle.

By looking at the color of the wine you can sometimes predict the intensity of the nose. In general the darker the wine the heavy or more intense the nose will be. It is also important to note that with a good wine one smell is not enough. With a very good wine many complex scents can emerge from the wine over time. These complex scents are usually referred to as the bouquet of the wine. There is so much more that can be said about the “nose” of a wine, but for now I think I have given enough information to give anyone a advantage at their next Argentine wine tasting.

My friend and I have recently made a pact get out of our ‘routine-riddled rut’, vowing that we are going to be more adventurous, get out there and see more of what Buenos Aires nightlife has to offer; bars, restaurants and those hardcore all-nighter clubs. There was no better time to start this gluttonous endeavour then a Tuesday night ‘ladies night’.

As Buenos Aires isn’t exactly known for being pumping on a Tuesday evening (to be fair, possibly one of the only nights where it’s not) we thought it was best to select a chilled out location that has been high on our ‘to do’ list for a while: La Cava Jeffrey, Alamcen de Vinos y Descorche on the crossroads Jufre and Julian Alvarez.

From the moment I clapped eyes on the quaint old-fashioned corner building with its large burgundy wooden door, I was in love. If I were a cartoon character, hearts would have exploded from my eye sockets. The doorway was flanked with two large windows giving us a sneak peak to what awaited on the inside. Two pretty Argentine women sat enveloped in excitable chatter on the small wooden table smoking and having what appeared to be an Argentina wine tasting …I swear, for one moment I could have been in Paris.

As a wine fanatic I could only describe La Cava Jufre vinoteca as the perfect Argentine wine zone as it is so much more than just a wine bar. It felt intimate, cosy, friendly and utterly relaxed. I pretty much melted into my traditional wooden chair while taking in the surroundings. A simple wooden bar is at the heart of the room, normally with the attentive owner, Lito, perched behind it (most likely involved in a deep philosophical chat with a punter), the stunning brick walls supported tall wine racks with an impressive assortment of bottles as well as soft Jazz playing in the background. Dreamy.

We quickly ordered a cheeses plate for two and then enquired to the whereabouts of the wine list…. the response was a point in the direction of a multilevel circular wine rack located near the door. We were like kids in sweet shop, squealing in delight at each new wine discovery; La Cava Jufre has a fabulous selection of small boutique wineries, just the kind of Argentine wine I like to explore, quaff and taste. I also really enjoyed the fact that I could personally handle and inspect each bottle rather than just blindly choosing a name from a long list of Argentine Wines with flowery description underneath. It was simplicity at it’s best!

We finally settled for Las Perdices Pinot Noir Reserva 2010 (more to come about this great young wine in the future), which was a lovely pairing for our generous portion of selected cheeses which included brie, fontina, smoked goats cheese, almonds, raisons and olives. The olives were slightly overpowering for the light bodied wine but the almonds and raison really brought out the characteristics of the wine beautifully…as did the cheese, of course!

The night dissolved and as the last drops of the Pinot Noir were poured we decided we hadn’t quite had enough, La Cava Jufre is just too damn comfortable. So we went back for seconds, this time Tapiz Cabernet-Merlot blend from 2008. As one might expect, this was rather a big contrast from our previous wine selection; this was big, bold and powerful versus the Pinots light, silky, smooth texture. It was a little bit too much for one night and only three little ladies to share (especially as both wines were 14%) so we decided to call it a night with over a half a bottle of wine left. Feeling disappointed at having to leave such a great wine unfinished, Lito put our minds to rest as the cork was promptly shoved back into the neck of the bottle and placed in a bag so we could take the rest to enjoy at home. Perfect. And that is literally how I felt about the whole experience. Perfect.

I have always loved movies. I am starting to love wine. It is not until recently that I began to recognize how involved one was in the other. Recently, when I returned home from a Buenos Aires wine tasting I sat down with a bottle of San Gigmnanio Malbec Roble 2010 and put on a consensus top ten movie for any American The Godfather. The movie is about the Italian mafia so one shouldn’t be surprised that there is a lot of wine in this movie. In the opening scene at the wedding of the Don’s daughter large pitchers of wine are being passed around. Wine is enjoyable, relaxed, and fun, lacking the pretentiousness that is sometimes assigned to wine.  With my interest peaked I decided to check out other movies that bring wine into the equation.

movies for wine lovers

In most movies wine is used at times of celebration. Whether it is the future realm of Star Trek or the ancient era of Lord of the Rings drinking fine wines during moments of celebration seem to transcend all types of genres. A part of argentine tourism that I have yet to explore yet is their film, but knowing how important the Malbec’s and Torrontes varietal wines are to Argentineans I expect the same could be said for argentine films.

There are some movies that an avid wine lover can indulge in that I can assume were made by wine obsessed directors. If you’re willing to watch a movie in black and white pick up Casblanca. Just about every scene involves one of the characters indulging themselves with Champagne, Cognac, and Brandy.Only a movie whose plot is about wine could have more wine than Casablanca. Luckily, Sideways is just that. Sideways is a movie about two wine lovers and their adventures throughout the California wine country. I myself haven’t seen Sideways but have heard that any wine lover would enjoy the movie. So next time you return from an Argentine wine tasting or other Argentine tourist attractions open a bottle of whichever wine you please and watch a movie about wine or any movie of your choice and try to find the wine it!

[Guest post by Spencer Omuemu who is learning about wine]

sommelier

What exactly is a Sommelier? At any Buenos Aires wine tasting you will undoubtedly hear the word. At first, I assumed it was a grape variation along the lines of Malbec, Torrontes, and Bonarda, but when I saw someone refer to another person as a “Sommelier” I knew my definition of the word was probably wrong. To keep it simple a sommelier is a well-trained wine professional. A sommelier is knowledgeable in all aspect s of wine tasting, ranging from wine service to wine and food pairings. He/she is the kind of person who you can ask just about any question pertaining to a specific bottle of wine.

Other than being responsible for an Argentine wine tasting, or any wine tasting for that matter, a sommelier can assume an important role at any restaurant, import company or distributorship. He would be responsible for collaborating with the chef and the culinary team to create a list of the proper wines to pair with certain dishes and meals. A sommelier must not only understand wine but have an outstanding palet, outstanding personality, and a deep understanding of many types of food and beverages.

How do you become a sommelier? You can’t just become a sommelier by loving wine. To become a certified sommelier you need to enroll in about six months of classes and pass a certification exam. After going through classes and passing a certification exam you can walk away with certifications ranging from an Advance Sommelier Certificate, a Certified Sommelier Certificate, and Introductory Sommelier Certificate, and a Master Sommelier Diploma. Equipped with your certification and sommelier knife your are ready to spread your knowledge and passion for wine and argentine wine tastings to anyone who wants to listen. Just because you’re not a sommelier doesn’t mean your knowledge of wine isn’t reliable. Passion for wine and tangible commitment to the study of wine can take you as far and possible even further than any sommelier certification.

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