Brave New World: A+ Australian wine & chocolate tasting

Not one easter egg passed my lips this weekend. Just a Lindt bunny so, champing at the bit, I fair trotted into town this week for my second ever wine and chocolate tasting.

The first, at the World Wine Festival, Palais Coburg, Vienna, left me in no doubt that sweet, ripe-fruited red unfortified and fortified wines worked best.

But doubt set in during this tasting, which was co-hosted by Wine Australia and Rococo Chocolates in the equally grand surrounds of Australia House. Some refreshingly bravura chocolate and wine matches challenged convention, notably a positively inspired pairing of Rococo White chocolate Cardamom and Saffron Ganache & Innocent Bystander Moscato, Victoria 2011 (pictured). Just genius!

On the nose, the Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer wittily chimed with each chocolate’s signature notes of sea salt, then roses, teeing up the taste buds. Though the pairings didn’t take off in the mouth, there was no discord. In fact, given my expectations, the pairings were disconcertingly jar-free! I’m very sure a tribute to some very fine craftsmanship on the part of both chocolatier (Rococo are the Academy of Chocolate’s Chocolatier of the Year 2011) and the winemakers.

On the other hand, the Shiraz, a burly 15 percenter, proved an absolute runaway success with both red wine chocolate matches, especially its pre-selected blackcurrant and violet partner. Very smart.

Turning to sweeter wines, no surprises that both fortified wines proved their mettle with chocolate – just fabulous matches. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the perfect slacker’s dinner party dessert!

Below my thoughts on each match. First, a quick word about Rococo. Founded by Chantal Coady in 1983, it’s one of London’s pioneering artisanal chocolatiers, with shops on the Kings Road, Marylebone High Street and Motcomb Street. You can find out more on their website here.

And if you fancy partaking in a spot of wine and chocolate tasting, why not enter Wine Australia & Rococo’s competition to win some Rococo chocolates and a case of fine Australian wine – click here for details.

Rococo Sea Salt Wafer & De Bortoli PHI Chardonnay, Yarra Valley 2007

With salt caramel notes to the nose and palate, this ultra-classy, sylph-like Chardonnay (just 12% abv) provided lipsmacking anticipation of what was to come. Rococo’s organic milk chocolate wafer (37% chocolate) is similarly delicate and subtly creamy/caramely with shards of sea salt which intensify the taste. Together, they did not fight, but there was no synergy – best savoured individually. The wine: RRP £27.99 (Harrods, www.winedirect.co.uk)

Rococo Rose Ganache & Skillogalee Gewurztraminer, Clare Valley 2011

Classic rose petal notes on the nose and, yep, the rationale for this match is clear. Intense and, though pretty dry, with a sweetness to its fruit, the Gewurtz (12.5%) performs remarkably well with this dark chocolate coated ganache. (The ganache is a blend of chocolate, fresh cream and rose, raspberry and lychee puree). The wine: RRP £16.00 (Great Western Wine, Formula Wine, www.thedrinkshop.com)

Rococo Red Berry Ganache & d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache, McLaren Vale 2008

Drier, more savoury and so nowhere near as confected as many an Aussie Grenache, the very thing that I value about d’Arenberg’s The Custodian Grenache was its undoing here.   Though its citrus inflected core of red berry and cherry fruit bounced along merrily with the fruity ganache filling, it came a cropper on the finish, which seemed a touch bitter. The wine: RRP £13.99 (Majestic)

Rococo Blackcurrant and Violet Ganache & Mitolo GAM Shiraz, McLaren Vale 2009

When I tasted the wine, I wondered if the chocolate would cope with the tannins, but wow, this match was stunning. A power on power match, dark, brooding and intense with violet and vanilla lift to both wine and chocolate. Heady stuff! The wine was nearly as good with the red berry ganache too. RRP £28.99 (Harvey Nichols; Wines of Distinction, Battersea)

Rococo White chocolate Cardamom and Saffron Ganache & Innocent Bystander Moscato, Victoria 2011

With sparkling wine, Rococo’s Seraphina Evans recommends going sweeter and lighter when it comes to the chocolate match. White chocolate is perfect and goodness gracious me, this extraordinarily subtly spiced ganache and wine combo summoned to mind the boxes of Ambala Barfis my dad used to pick up in Bradford – toothsomely sweet, deleriously delectable Indian desserts! But there’s a gossamer levity here too – or am I just kidding myself Malteser style (the honeycombe middle that weighs so little)!?!?!?! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this combo is guaranteed to paste a smile on your face. The wine: RRP (half bottle) £6.99 (Selfridges; Harvey Nichols; North and South Wines, Wandsworth).

Rococo Mango, Passion Fruit and Orange Ganache & Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora, Victoria 2009

This milk chocolate ganache was sweeter than those paired with the red wines and this, together with the fruity, tropical ganache, made for a solid if not especially exciting pairing with Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora. I wondered if Brown Brothers richer, sweeter, peachy Patricia Noble Riesling would weigh in better? The wine (half bottle): RRP £7.29 (Waitrose, Morrisons, www.slurp.co.uk, Booths, Tanners and Majestic)

Rococo Pecan and Spice Praline & Campbells Classic Rutherglen Muscat, Rutherglen

The first of the fortified matches. The chocolates really teased out the flavours of both, brilliantly adding value to the whole. Aged for an average of 5-10 years in seasoned wood, second tier “Classic” Rutherglen Muscats show wonderful spice and rancio notes. The Campbells is no exception, a gorgeous wine, whose spicy, smoky mocha, roast coffee notes are intensified by the chocolate. There’s real harmony of texture, flavour and sweetness to this pair of smoothies. So smooth, it really flies (off the plate, out the glass too)! The wine: RRP £18.99 (Fortnum & Mason’s, Berry Brothers & Rudd, www.slurp.co.uk)

Rococo Coffee and Cardamom Marzipan & Grant Burge 10 year old Tawny NV

This dark, fruity, nutty, spicy, earthy Tawny finds many echoes in the chocolate – soaring nutmeg spice and more savoury, throaty tobacco notes let rip when this dynamic duo are paired. Very good even though I’m yet to be truly enamoured of marzipan which, says Seraphina, is fast catching on here. The wine: RRP £19.99 (Harrods, Hailsham Cellars, The London Wine Company, Byrne & Co, Amps, www.slurp.co.uk)




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