By Jessica Nagy
Pairing wine with chocolate is about more than just rich desserts and powerful Ports or Amarones; it’s a subtle art that can have a big impact on the entire meal if done well.
I recently spoke with Sommelier Rebecca Meïr-Liebman about how she takes on this challenge in a series of Sweet & Savoury chocolate-inspired dinners that she hosts with her husband, Chef Eyal Liebman, in Toronto. The next dinner will take place November 8 with all proceeds going to support Second Harvest.
“I start by choosing the winery,” says Rebecca. In this case, it’s Niagara’s Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, owned and operated by the Speck family.
“Once I select the winery, I’ll choose the specific wines based on Eyal’s menu.” A French trained chef, Eyal’s menus are inspired by the seasons, using mostly local and fresh ingredients.
Often, says Rebecca, Eyal will change a dish to better work with the wine or even compliment the wine to my advice.
For Eyal, a chocolatier with a long background as a pastry chef, the key is to use it as a supporting player in the dish, and to use different types of chocolate, depending on the flavour profile you desire.
Chocolate is similar to wine in that it can also be thought to bring its terroir—sense of place—to influence a dish.
This is why Rebecca looks at wine, like the chocolate, as just another ingredient on the plate, rather than the star. Their special characteristics should elevate the whole meal, rather than outshine one ingredient or another.
For example, Chef Eyal’s mid-course for the November 8 dinner is a Beef Marrow with Valrhona Dulcey – a blond, caramelized chocolate that Rebecca has paired with a botrytis-affected Riesling.
The robust aromas and flavours of the wine will stand up well to both the fattiness of the beef marrow and to the buttery chocolate.
An appetizer of Venison Raviolo made with chocolate-infused pasta will be paired with Henry of Pelham’s flagship wine, the Reserve Baco Noir.
Whether as sommelier or host at home, your job is to provide balance to create the best possible experience for your guests.
Do you have a favourite chocolate and wine pairing?