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Chocolate pairings with spirits and wine: how to get it right

Chocolate pairings

Chocolates and a bottle is possibly one of the most classic gift-combos. But if you think that getting it right is easy, you’ve got another thing coming! Knowing which chocolate goes with which drink is an art in itself and finding the perfect pairing is technical, but worth it. We asked a chocolatier and a sommelier for their pairing advice. The results were fascinating!

The Chocolatier’s Take 

Hugues Pouget is the founder of Parisian patisserie and chocolate shop, Hugo & Victor. 

Cognac, the smooth operator

Suave and smooth go hand-in-hand in cognac. Hennessy X.O goes particularly well with rich, spicy flavours that enhance the spirit’s robustness and structure, so a chocolate with citrus fruit is always a good idea. For instance, the zesty fruitiness of a Peruvian dark chocolate ganache infused with orange, highlights the cognac’s round, full-bodied nature.

Chocolate pairings

Whisky, the fine, fruity choice 

Though each Glenmorangie whisky has its own specific flavour profile, they share the same fruity notes. And whether those notes are citrus or vanilla, the ideal chocolate to have with it will be fruity and preferably milk chocolate, which softens the whisky’s boldness. For Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989, go for a milk chocolate infused with whisky and lemon zest. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, which gets it strong flavours from its extra maturation in port cask, will find its ideal match with chocolate filled with apricot ganache. 

Champagne, the sweet-tooth pleaser 

The sparkling effervescence of champagne generally goes well with most chocolates - dark, milk and even white. However, for Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame Blanc 2006, a dark, Tahitian vanilla ganache chocolate will underline the sweet, almost brioche-like notes of the champagne. The subtle, fruity aromas of a champagne such as Dom Pérignon Vintage 2009 however, will require a more robust, chocolaty sweetness. A dark, chocolate-coated caramel infused with white peach for example, will bring the right balance between the sharpness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the candied fruit. 

Chocolate pairings

The Sommelier’s Take 

Florent Martin receive the Best Sommelier of France award in 2016, and is sommelier at the Four Seasons George V Hotel’s three-Michelin star restaurant Le Cinq. 

How do you pair wine and spirits with chocolate?  

They are usually paired according to the finesse of their tannins, as well as the fruitiness and the refinement of the wine and spirits.  

What is the best chocolate to have with whisky, cognac, wine and champagne?  

For whisky, I would say a Puerto Cabello chocolate from Venezuela, or a dark matcha tea chocolate for its tonic bitterness and grassy twist. This works well  to reveal the fine peat of certain single malts.  

For cognac, I would go for an exceptional Venezuelan chocolate with plenty of strength or a caramelised orange and vanilla mendiant chocolate, which will bring out the roundness and velvety texture of the whisky.  

As for wine, a deep and silky, 20 year old First Growth Bordeaux is perfect for warming up the palate before tasting a Bonnat Chocolat Trinité des Antilles.

Finally, with champagne, I would try a chocolate from Ecuador: light and subtle with a luxurious texture that will melt in the fine bubbles of the champagne while bringing out its brioche flavours.  

Chocolate pairings

Is there a specific way to have chocolate and wine or spirits?  

Firstly, the chocolate has to be served at the right temperature: cool, but it needs to be fondant so that the texture of the wine or spirit isn’t impacted by too much cold, which would bring tension, or too much warmth, which would free too much alcohol. 

What else is important to remember when pairing wine/spirits and chocolate? 

It’s important to be patient when alternating mouthfuls so that you make the most of the full taste and length of the taste while in the mouth before having another.