A pleasant evening at the Green and Blue in Dulwich gave me some great food and wine matching ideas but also a taste for the macabre.
The evening couldn’t have been more pleasant, or the company more convivial, but as soon as I got home after an evening pairing wine and chocolate at the delightful Green & Blue Wine Bar in Dulwich, I sped to my bookshelf for a copy of Dram Stroker’s Dracula and looked for the most blood chilling passage that I could find. Why? How could an evening’s wine tasting possibly inspire this desire for the Victorian Gothic? Lets start at the beginning.
Kate Thal, gifted sommelier and owner of Green & Blue, is a big fan of matching chocolate with red wine. ‘The match isn’t mainstream yet, so it’s a great way to surprise people and introduce them to something new,’ she explains. To evangelise her message she’d generously invited a group of food bloggers round to taste her theory. (See links at bottom of this posting.)
We kicked off with what Kate referred to as a ‘no brainer’ match: Montemuzma’s milk chocolate with a great Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand, Amisfield 2006 (price £22). Packed with red fruits and a lightly oaky background, this wine could easily be described as a ‘modern classic.’ The chocolate was smooth and inevitable creamy, even to the point of being cloying, but then I’m not a big fan of milk chocolate, however paired with the wine the chocolate became fresh, clean and far more attractive.
The chocolate got more serious with the next pair. Montezuma’s ‘Dark Side’ chocolate was matched with Ridford Dale Merlot, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2005 (price £13.50). The wine had plenty of dark fruit, peppery characteristics and well-structured tannins which made this a pretty sophisticated rendition of this frequently pedestrian grape variety. Together the wine and chocolate made a good savoury and intense match. Fellow food blogger, Stephen, of http://dinnerdiary.org/ commented that these pairings seemed to work best when the tannins in the wine are on an equal footing with the percentage of cocoa solids. I agreed. For me the discord with this Merlot/dark chocolate match didn’t come from the wine or the cocoa solids, but the sugar in the chocolate, which jarred raspingly on my palate and was just one flavour sensation too many. The match also confirmed my view that when using chocolate in savoury cooking, (chilli con carne etc) it’s far better to go for cocoa powder than solid chocolate because the confectioner’s sugar will always be an unknown quantity in the mix.
The next wine was a Bandol, Domaine la Suffrene, which is made from 100% Mourvedre. It had a tremendous and typically Southern France garrigue (lavender, rosemary and thyme) aroma and a really dry and tarry palate. The chocolate was Montezuma’s dark chocolate which has 73% cocoa solids. There wasn’t a hint of anything sweet and sugary in this match instead it was as dark and brooding as a stormy November night. This was gourmet hardcore and definitely not for those with a delicate disposition. In a word it was Gothic and I loved it.
The final match lightened the mood: Bera Moscato d’Asti, Canelli 2007 (price £15.00). This is probably the best Moscato d’Asti I’ve ever tasted. It was grapey, floral and very clean and lightly effervescent. Matched with white chocolate this made a match that was as pretty and pure as a Dracula victim. Something for all tastes then.
So to sum up, I agree with Kate that dark chocolate and red wine is a fabulous and unusual match and is definitely one to try at home. There’s scope to play around with Pinot Noir and Merlot but here’s what I suggest for a truly Gothic experience: get a bottle of Bandol, the above mentioned Domaine la Suffrene or Château de Pibarnon is another great example, make a batch of my beetroot crisps with chocolate chilli sauce, (recipe above right) draw the curtains, light some candles and settle down with a Gothic novel or film just be prepared to be very, very scared! And if you want to get in the mood, read on for a chilling extract from Dracula.
There he lay looking as if youth had been half-renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion*
And to think I thought red wine and chocolate would be a radical taste sensation…
My fellow bloggers at the wine and chocolate evening were:
My thanks to Kate Thal and the Green & Blue Wine Bar for such an interesting and unusual evening.
*Bram Stroker Dracula Wordsworth Classics 1993