Wine to drink with dark chocolate

cafe cabernetEaster is on the horizon which for many people means time to gorge on as many chocolate Easter eggs as possible. It’s always at Easter time that I really miss Woolworths, well Easter and the beginning of September, three things Woolies were ace at: back to school stationary, pick n’ mix and Easter eggs, their Easter egg aisles seemed to go on forever…

Wine and chocolate matching divides many people, there is so much snobbery about wine but like any 2 ingredients that vary so much in flavour there are good pairings and bad. When I received an email asking me if I’d like to try out a wine created with the intention of being matched with chocolate my interest was definitely peaked. Linton Park Wines are the team behind the South African Café Cabernet, they set about creating a wine specifically to match well with very dark, bitter high cocoa (70% and above) chocolate and you know what, it’s a good pairing. The wine arrived in a gorgeous box with a bar of 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate that had been blended in Belgium. The matt black bottle was pretty striking and even elicited a “nice bottle” from my wine hating boyfriend Glen, which definitely took me by surprise.

cafe cabernet

I love my reds to be so dark and concentrated that you can’t see light through the glass – the big hitters that reek of tobacco and stain your lips like you’ve been blackberry picking after just one sip.  I also like a really gentle hint of sweetness in there but the general rule of thumb is not to drink a wine thats sweeter than your chocolate, so this dark, brooding cabernet needed to be dry as a bone to compliment the bitter dark chocolate that I was nibbling on, and dry it was.

This is definitely a food pairing wine for me. When food and drink pairs well their sum is so much greater than its parts. Alone the wine, although having plenty of blackcurrant fruit and mocha spice that I love was just too dry for me to drink alone but paired with the bitter dark chocolate it became a much happier, smoother, well rounded creature all together, think really well made Italian espresso. In the name of science I decided to test the wine with a different chocolate and the dark chocolate with a different red…

cafe cabernet

Science in action….

Paired with a sweeter, creamier chocolate it’s a terrible clash, this baby needs the high cocoa bitterness to really shine, the touch of sweetness the bitter chocolate brings completes the pairing. Likewise the bitter chocolate when eaten with a sweeter, jammy Malbec was just plain wrong, the chocolate needs the dry cabernet, it really was quite striking how different the 2 wines were with the same chocolate. The sweeter chocolate and Malbec were equally brilliant together also which goes to show all those people who exclaim that you can’t pair wine and chocolate just haven’t paired the right ones.

Dark, bitter, high cocoa solids chocolate is said to be good for you as is a glass of good red wine (unless of course you read the Daily Mail which basically insists EVERYTHING gives you cancer, seriously stop reading that paper, you will feel all the better for it). When you find a happy couple that compliment each other then surely your entitled to call it medicinal to enjoy a few nibbles and sups….. *doctor face*

Cafe Cabernet also turned out to be a bloody brilliant match with our dinner that night, I’d made a spicy, tomato based creole chicken curry, not an easy wine match but Café Cabernet stepped up and nailed it, more plus points.

When it comes wine I very rarely buy one that needs to be drank alongside anything more than a cigarette but you know what, I’d definitely make an exception for this one as it gives me the perfect excuse to indulge in some really good chocolate too 🙂

You can pick up a bottle for £8.98 from The Drink Shop.

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Smoked Tea

I am currently having an all consuming love affair with Lapsang Souchong tea.  Lapsang tea is smoked over pinewood fires to give it an incredibly beautiful deep smoky flavour. The quality of tea varies massively and it really is worth spending a few quid on an excellent tea as you use it so sparingly it will last for ages. I can highly recommend St Martins Coffee in Leicester for their great tea, also Dragon Fly do a really beautiful organic tea that is worth the extra couple of quid. I have been experimenting with various smoked tea infusions for about 4 weeks now.  One of my favourite quick infusions is to pop a bit of your favourite full bodied red wine into a cup and add a few long strands of tea. Let it infuse for about 30 mins then pour about a tablespoon of the smoky infused wine into a full glass.  I like my red wines deep and full and the addition of a touch of smoke is perfect for a night in front of the fire and  its also a really nice addition to your bonfire night mulled wine.

Rum and smoked tea work really well together.  Just get a bottle of your favourite dark/golden rum and add a few strands to the bottle. I made fantastic Bonfire Night Smokey Spiced Apple Daiquiris a couple of weeks ago – bloody lovely! If you are making a smoked fish kedgeree pop a few strands in the poaching milk, it really does add a new lift to the dish.

I’m currently working on a recipe for a Sheep’s Cheesecake. The sultanas have been swelling in the smoked tea rum for 2 days now and are so plump they pop when you bite them.  Should be ready tomorrow to assemble.