Where can you find the best chocolate? What’s the difference between candy and real chocolate? How can you pair wine and chocolate? What does Fair Trade mean and what should you look out for? Where can you find the best chocolate?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with New York Chocolate Sommelier Roxanne Browning.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- Why should you consider a trip to the Ecuadorian rainforest?
- What parallels can you find between wine and chocolate?
- In which regions can you find the best quality cacao?
- What is heirloom cacao?
- How can you identify real chocolate?
- Can you access artisanal chocolate from around the world?
- Why do you notice fruit-forward notes in real chocolate?
- What do you need to know about selecting and serving chocolate?
- How can you restore the taste of chocolate that wasn’t properly tempered?
- What can you do to support fair wages and working conditions for cacao farmers?
- What health benefits can you enjoy from real chocolate?
- How can chocolate help you lose weight?
- Which wines can you pair with real chocolate?
- Why does texture play such an important role in your chocolate experience?
- Roxanne found several similarities between wine and chocolate, from the importance of terroir and they’re grown to not being overly manipulated when being made. Even the parallel between using sugar and dairy to mask poor cacao beans is similar to using oak and high alcohol to cover up poor grapes.
- Cacao beans are fruit, not legumes or vegetables because they grow on trees, and therefore also have varying degrees of acidity like wine.
- Roxanne gives great advice for serving chocolate like cheese – let it come up to room temperature to appreciate the aromas and flavours.
- Buy Direct Trade chocolate when you can to support farmers more fully.
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About Roxanne Browning
As an entrepreneur, Roxanne Browning merged two passions – chocolate and wine. Ultimately, a trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest, where she harvested cacao and witnessed first hand how the noble cacao pod transforms into a chocolate bar. By empowering cacao farmers to lift themselves out of poverty, they reinvest back into their land, communities, feed and educate their children.
- Connect with Roxanne
- Part 1 and Part 2 of my video interview with Roxanne including visuals of all the things she shared, bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers
- If you’re interested in my hosting a wine and cheese or chocolate tasting for your group, please email me at [email protected]
- Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Holiday Initiative | Taste the Season at Home
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- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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Natalie MacLean 0:52
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean and each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please; and let’s get started!
Natalie MacLean 1:34
Welcome to Episode 109. Which wines pair best with which types of chocolate and which are disastrous? What’s the difference between a candy chocolate bar and real chocolate? What do fair trade and direct trade mean? And why are they important when you buy chocolate? And where can you find the best chocolate? That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with Roxanne Browning, a chocolate sommelier who joins me from her home in New York City. In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines and chocolates we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on both Instagram and Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7pm, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/109.
In the new year, I’ll be hosting virtual wine and chocolate pairing classes for several corporate groups and other organisations as it has a great tie in with Valentine’s Day and attendees can participate at home with their loved ones. I’ll also be hosting wine and cheese tastings online. If you’d like me to do this for your group, please email me at Natalie at nataliemaclean.com. You’ll also find my contact in the show notes.
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. So I thought I’d share with you that every year I make and break several resolutions about exercise and housecleaning. However, I also make a few resolutions about wine, which have always been super easy for me to keep because they’re fun. So here are a few of my favourites that you can try this year. Number one, I resolve to try something new. It’s easy to get in a rut with wine and buy the same wine every time. But the pleasure of wine is in its diversity. If you like a full body Cabernet Sauvignon from California, try one from Argentina or even a different robust red such as an Argentine Malbec. Two: I resolved to cut calories; and that is of course to make space for my chocolate covered almonds. Both alcohol and sugar contribute calories to wine. So if you want to cut back, look for dry wines with low alcohol, such as dry Riesling from Washington or Germany. They have plenty of taste on the lips, but they don’t stay a lifetime on your hips. And number three, I resolved to save money. Did I mention that I’m a wine cheapskate? Chilean Chardonnay and South African Shiraz are among the best deals in the liquor store. They’re not as fashionable as Bordeaux or Tuscany but you’ll get terrific quality for your money. Number four, I resolved to entertain with less fuss. You don’t need to cook a multi course dinner to invite friends over this year. Not that I could cook anyway; Miles is the cook. But just crack open a bottle of your favourite wine and serve it with different cheeses. It’s a really quick and delicious way to entertain. I resolved to drink local more often, just as we’re supporting local farmers by buying their produce. Let’s do the same by drinking what’s in our own backyard, wherever we are.
Natalie MacLean 5:12
And number six, I resolved to have more fun, if that’s possible. Wine is all about pleasure. Try some new and surprising combinations this year such as champagne and potato chips, or an oaked Chardonnay and buttery popcorn. Hmm. On with the show!
Natalie MacLean 5:35
When I put the question out there on Twitter and Facebook as to whom I should talk to about wine and chocolate pairing, I was told by several people that I just had to talk to Roxanne Browning. Roxanne Browning is known as New Yorks’ chocolate sommelier. She hosts tastings of exotic artisanal chocolates from around the world, often pairing them with wine. This is a woman who knows how to live well. Welcome, Roxanne.
Roxanne Browning 6:01
Thank you for having me.
Natalie MacLean 6:02
So before we dive into the wine and chocolate pairings, let’s talk a little bit about how you got started with your lifelong passion for chocolate. I was reading a little bit on your excellent website, that it started with a search for the ultimate bar and that led you down to the Ecuadorian rainforest. So tell me a little bit about that.
Roxanne Browning 6:22
Well, what it’s very similar to is if a winemaker would want to go to Italy or France to experience Old World winemaking; cacaos’ origins are in the Amazon, so I had to go. And I worked with the natives in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in the lower Napo region, and lived with them in a very modest hut in a tiny little community and harvested cacao and saw how it went from the bean to the bar.
Natalie MacLean 6:50
Wow, there’s similarities with grapes and wines, you know, grape to glass, and helping out with the harvest as a means of really understanding what goes into the process. The similarities are uncanny. So tell me a little bit more about cacao. For those who aren’t deeply into chocolate yet, they will be after this. What is that? What exactly? And why is it down in the Ecuadorian forest as opposed to a lot of other regions around the world?
Roxanne Browning 7:15
Well, actually, I have a pot here if you’d like to see
Natalie MacLean 7:20
Yes I would please.
Roxanne Browning 7:22
Okay. This is a cacao pod. And it is the colour of the Nacional bean of Ecuador, where I was, and the Nacional bean is only indigenous to Ecuador. Just like varietals of grapes grow best in certain terroirs so does cacao. And there are many, many varietals, and they come in all different colours, and all different sizes. So this is a pod, and then here are beans. First they started as seeds, and then they are turned into beans by the fermentation process.
Natalie MacLean 7:57
That’s great, excellent props. I don’t know a lot about chocolate, but I want to learn. Is that the only region that makes benchmark chocolate or is it all around the equator that you’ll find regions of chocolate growing?
Roxanne Browning 8:11
Okay, that’s a good question. And how I could best explain that is that wine is in the 30-50 zone (30 degrees and 50 degrees latitude, North and South of the equator ) on the planet. Cacao can only be grown in the 20-20 zone, which is 20 degrees north and south of the equator, which is the entire tropical belt that goes around the world. And its origins are Latin America; the Amazon region: which takes in about five countries. And these are an Heirloom cacao. Certainly where it originates, it’s going to be the best
Natalie MacLean 8:43
Heirloom, meaning that the plants are old?
Roxanne Browning 8:46
Well, it has history. It’s been there for 1000s and 1000s of years. And that’s where it began. And that’s where it thrives the best. Trades have taken them to Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, and in those regions, except for Madagascar, cacao is more of a bulk chocolate product to fulfil quick fantasy needs of candy bars. It’s not real chocolate
Natalie MacLean 9:16
Quick fantasy needs though that doesn’t sound so bad..
Roxanne Browning 9:19
Real chocolate, real cacao is in the Latin American nations.
Natalie MacLean 9:25
Okay, so I understand that this chocolate is terroir driven just like wine. But like when we first spoke in an email back and forth about doing this chat you said “Well, there’s a misconception that the chocolate bars that we buy, those are just candy”. And what’s the difference for you? Is it just the sugar content or is it truly the origin of the beans? What divides candy bars, chocolate bars, from real artisanal chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 9:52
Well all candy bars, their chocolate is bought on the commodities market, which is the bulk flavourless beans and most of candy, the first ingredient is sugar. Further down the line if you read the ingredients, you’ll finally come across chocolate, bulk flavourless. And they have to add a lot of stuff in there to make it taste somewhat like chocolate that’s edible; where when you’re dealing with real chocolate, the first ingredient is chocolate. And because it already has a great flavour, there’s no need to put additives in there. So all you need is chocolate and sugar and cocoa butter, which is part of the bean itself. It’s extracted a lot like olive oil would be extracted from olives, and I have a piece here to show you.
Natalie MacLean 10:43
More props. All right, yeah. Okay, so this is cocoa butter.
Roxanne Browning 10:54
Yeah, and it comes from the bean, it’s extracted out and it’s put back to make the bars, to turn it into a solid, or else we would still have liquid chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 10:59
How many beans would it take to create that little pat of cocoa butter that you just had?
Roxanne Browning 10:59
Well, it takes three pods to create one chocolate bar, and there’s about 30 to 50 seeds in each pod, depending on the size.
Natalie MacLean 11:10
Hmm, fascinating. And again, the parallels with wine, you’re talking about that real artisanal chocolate made from good beans doesn’t need to be doctored, as does wine from really good terroir driven wine doesn’t have to be over manipulated with too much oak or too much, you know, acidification or whatever. So I think we’re going to find a happy marriage between these
two. All right, so tell me a little bit more about the types of chocolate because again, I was intrigued with some of the things that you’re mentioning on your web website, like single origin and fusion; maybe tell me a little bit about these things.
Roxanne Browning 11:47
Okay, well, I have some chocolate here, if you’d like.This represents different regions of the world. For instance, I have Peru here, Ecuador, Venezuela, Grenada, Cuba, I have Madagascar,
Natalie MacLean 12:04
Are those really hard to get or if you know, your local specialty chocolate retailer, you can really taste widely.
Roxanne Browning 12:11
Well, because I live in the New York area, there are certain places in New York City where you can get an array of fabulous chocolates from all over the world. So not everybody has that luxury. Even though you’re in New York, people always me “Where can I buy these chocolates?” and it’s not always that accessible to get to certain stores if you don’t always get into the city. But the chocolate makers that I work with, they all have their own online presence. And I encourage people to go there if they want to buy direct as well.
Natalie MacLean 12:42
That’s a good idea. And what are fusion chocolates?
Roxanne Browning 12:45
Well, I call them fusions because if there’s something in there other than chocolate, it’s a fusion. And generally, here I have one for instance, that’s infused with berries:, strawberries, raspberries. It tastes great.
Natalie MacLean 13:01
Yeah, the marriage of the flavours really work between the berries and the chocolate acidity of the berries and the sweetness of the chocolate.
Roxanne Browning 13:06
Well, chocolate already has its own fruit forward notes because it is a fruit. That pod is a fruit. And that’s one thing I teach people all the time. Nobody even has a clue that it’s a fruit; they think not being vegetable. Nobody knows it’s a fruit; it grows on a tree. And because it is a fruit, there’s a lot of acidity. So it depends on each chocolate maker and farmer how much acidity they want to leave in or take out. So the more acidity that’s taken out, the less fruitiness it will have. So there’s a lot of citrus notes, berry notes, cherry, you name it, just like wine, it’s fascinating.
Natalie MacLean 13:52
It is. And what is, aside from that, which is a really important point to make, what is the biggest misconception that people have about chocolate or how to buy it or how to serve it? Anything else that comes to mind?
Roxanne Browning 14:04
Well, you know, it’s new territory, because chocolate is still in the candy aisle. So when I do my events, people are just blown away. They have so many questions, I can’t even begin, where to start. They are just blown away by the taste. If I do a comparison of a commercial chocolate that they’re all accustomed to, that we all have grown up with, and have them try real chocolate, they go “Oh my god, I can’t believe the differences. It doesn’t even taste like chocolate”. And they don’t want to go back. So the questions are endless. It’s just great.
Natalie MacLean 14:41
And is there a particular tip; just right before we get into tasting this with wine, that you have on serving chocolate? I know with cheese, it’s good to bring it up to room temperature before you serve it. But is there something in particular that you advise with chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 14:56
Well, actually I advise people to treat chocolate just like cheese. You know, you bring it to room temperature, it shouldn’t be too cold or else you lose the flavours, too warm; obviously, it’s going to melt. So room temperature is perfect. And I encourage people to snap it. Snapping gives a very good indication of a quality chocolate. The tempering is important.
Natalie MacLean 15.22
What is tempering?
Roxanne Browning 15:24
Tempering is the final stage of chocolate making. It’s when you get that very nice shiny sheen to chocolate. If you look at it, and you’ll say, wow, this is a great tempering. Chocolatiers strive for that. And it’s quite a difficult process to master. There’s a cooling temperatures up and down, up and down, until you get what you’re looking for. And if you ever see a chocolate that has those, like greyish blooms on the top? Did you ever get a chocolate bar that looks like that?
Natalie MacLean 15:52
Yeah, I think so. An old one do you mean?
Roxanne Browning 15:53
Yeah, it could be like shelf life. It’s too old or it wasn’t tempered right. So I tell people don’t go back to your store to get your money back, just melt it and bring it to room temperature and molecules fall back into place. And it tastes like it was the day it was made.
Natalie MacLean 16:12
Awesome. Actually, I just had a few more questions too. I want to ask about fair trade. Is that an important aspect of chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 16:19
Oh, it sure is. And one of my criteria in my business. I call it chocolate with a conscience that the chocolates must be even greater than fair trade. Fair Trade is the gateway to doing the right thing. And there’s certain models around the globe. And they’re all working very hard to create a perfect world for the farmers. What I do is direct trade; that’s the chocolates that I see. Which means either the farmer owns it; so they make 100% of the wholesale profits, or the chocolate maker and the farmer have a partnership. And they make probably 10 times the amount that they would if it was on the fair trade market. Miami’s market, they make pennies or nothing. There’s a huge gap.
Natalie MacLean 17:05
And I know fair trade when it applies to wine and other agricultural industries is about decent wages and living conditions for the farmers and workers. But do you have a rough idea of how much a bean farmer earns on an annual basis? Without fair trade, with fair trade and with direct trade? Do you have like a rough idea?
Roxanne Browning 17:26
Well, I can give you a rough idea. I know the farmers in Africa, where 80% of the cacao is harvested for the world’s demands, they make pennies per kilo, pennies, so they make nothing. It’s basically controlled by the brokers in the commodities market. And they are the ones that make the money. And unfortunately, also in Africa, a lot of the harvesting is done by child slavery. Cheap labour and cheap real estate and cheap chocolate keeps the costs down. Another reason you don’t want to buy chocolate from that region, but most people don’t know that. And then the fair trade market is generally four times that amount. It’s really something that most people are familiar with. You get it in coffee, sugars, teas that are starting to see the fair trade label on a lot of products, including chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 18:21
Right. And wine these days as well.
Roxanne Browning 18:23
Yeah. Now on the direct trade, like I said, they make 100% of the wholesale profit. So they’re making so much more. They do gauge their numbers by what the worlds’ demand is on the commodities market. So chocolate makers are willing to spend a lot more on heirloom beans compared to what they get it on the commodities market, but they also charge a lot more for their chocolate bars.
Natalie MacLean 18:49
Okay, rightly so. All right. Roxanne, I wanted to ask you about the health benefits of chocolate again, I think another similarity that it shares with wine. But what is the latest research telling us now about chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 18:59
Well, almost daily, there’s reports coming out on the health benefits of chocolate, from heart disease to diabetes, to decreasing your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and it’s coming from all different studies, all different regions of the world. I post them whenever I get them. And I distribute that amongst all my readership. But basically, yes, I mean, the more studies that are happening with chocolate, the more they’re uncovering its’ great health benefits. But the big problem, though, that I’m finding is they have these short you know, blasts of news that you can get on, you know, any news show but they don’t tell you that, well it can’t be candy and people run to the nearest grocery store and they buy up candy bars thinking that “Oh, this is great, I can eat all this chocolate now”. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’ve got to choose our artisinal chocolate where the first ingredient is chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 20:00
Because that’s what the health benefit is coming out of, cacao content or whatever it is.
Roxanne Browning 20:04
And the higher the cacao content like a 70% or higher, you’re going to get the greatest bang for your buck.
Natalie MacLean 20:12
And does that mean dark chocolate is the healthiest of all the different types?
Roxanne Browning 20:15
Yes, as a matter of fact, there’s been some studies that if you add milk to chocolate it negates many of the health properties so dairy is a no no in your chocolate. And I’ve seen in some commercial chocolate bars where they list on the package, dark chocolate, but when you look at the ingredients, somewhere, there’s milk, and there’s whey and I say, “Well, again, it’s their recipe, and they’re disguising something. It’s the bulk chocolate, they’re disguising”.
Natalie MacLean 20:43
Wow. Again, the parallels with wine, you know, there is a hierarchy, if you will, with Pinot Noir and red wines, often at the top of the pyramid for health benefits. That’s because of the resveratrol content, which is an antioxidant. Is that what also is your in chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 21:00
Yes, that is also in chocolate, in the cocoa butter. Well, the cocoa butter is where you’re going to get your MUFAs, mono unsaturated fatty acids. That’s something everybody should have every day in their diets. And there’s just a few of them. Olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados and all of that. But yes, the antioxidants are in real chocolate, just like in the wine. So wine and chocolate, I mean. And one other thing that just came out in regards to reports is that chocolate also helps you lose weight. And I get it. Yeah, I can attest to that. Because I’ve been swearing by this for at least 10 years before there was any study. What I do is I take a piece of chocolate, before I started my business, I take a chocolate piece, a real one and I savour it slowly after my lunch and dinner. And it’s very satisfying. You get those really rich fats in there that are good for you. And it inhibits you from wanting to reach for a bad fat, like a cookie or a cake or something because it’s just so filling and satisfying.
Natalie MacLean 22:01
I am so convinced; I’m starting today, Roxanne recommends chocolate to lose weight much longer.
Roxanne Browning 22:07
And you know, you shouldn’t deprive yourself from really quality food in life. I mean, it is a mood enhancer just like wine, and moderation. Everything goes a long way.
Natalie MacLean 22:21
Well, it’s not the immoderate part of the video, but let’s get to the tasting. So when we first talked about this, and I had suggested port, you liberated my view, that it is cliché, because port is often the pairing with chocolate, because we’re talking about candy chocolate. But with this real chocolate, you are more a fan of dry red wines.
Unknown Speaker 22:40
Is that correct? Yes, yeah.
Natalie MacLean 22:43
And why does that work? So well? Why doesn’t the wine end up tasting bitter with the chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 22:49
Well, because I have 50 chocolates to choose from. When given a wine to pair it with, I can find the right pairing. I don’t have to taste all 50. I mean, I’ve got it down to an art and a science where I taste a Pinot for instance, I know not to pair that with a very intense chocolate of a 75% or better because Pinot is a delicate grape, so I may want to try that with a 60% or our 66%. And I have several, also with fusion, so I’ll taste three or four myself and if I’m working with a sommelier, or a winemaker ; will go “Oh my god, this is the pairing”. We wait for that “Aha moment” where there’s a balance between the wine and the chocolate and one does not overpower the other. And it leaves you with a very nice after taste that just lingers and it keeps on changing. It’s very complex. So that’s what I’m looking for when I create pairings so you can’t just choose any chocolate and put it against any wine. It will taste awful.
Natalie MacLean 23:56
Yeah, that’s true. But learning which ones taste good or not is the fun part. So I have chosen Masi Amarone, which is a honkin Big Red but dry wine from Italy. It’s a beautiful wine with a lot of dark cherry flavours and I just thought I’d give this one a try to see how it works with chocolate, real chocolate. What do you think of an Amarone as a style?
Roxanne Browning 24:19
Oh, I love Amarone, one of my favourites. I collect Italian wines and oh, doesn’t get much better than that.
Natalie MacLean 24:27
No, it doesn’t. So which wine have you chosen there Roxanne?
Roxanne Browning 24:30
Well, I have a California red. And the reason why I have that is because I was asked to create a pairing for it.
Natalie MacLean 24:38
I have got a piece of milk chocolate here and a piece of dark chocolate. I’ve got a piece of chocolate with nuts in it, one of those fusion types. Which one would you suggest will work or which one should we try first?
Roxanne Browning 24:51
What’s the percentage?
Natalie MacLean 24:53
Oh, these are good chocolates. I was fearful of getting the wrong chocolates with you. I guess 70% dark chocolate is what I’ve got for my first one.
Roxanne Browning 25:04
All right, the Amarone would probably do well with that one. Give it a try.
Natalie MacLean 25:10
And do you try to have the chocolate and the wine in your mouth at the same time?
Roxanne Browning 25:13
What I do is I taste the wine.
Unknown Speaker 25:16
And then you go to the chocolate, I guess.
Roxanne Browning 25:18
I taste the chocolate individually. See, I have the wine and the chocolate. And you make a mental note of what they both taste like, independently of one another, and then you have them together. I’m going to start out with a 66 from Peru.
Natalie MacLean 25:40
I’m liking that. That doesn’t taste sugary at all. I am never going back either.
Roxanne Browning 25:48
Give yourself a good 30 seconds because you want that long finish.
Natalie MacLean 25:53
Roxanne Browning 25:55
I have to say that the one that I just tried worked very well. But I’m going to continue. You really have to make sure
You do, you have to be thorough in this business. We’re doing it for the people.
Roxanne Browning 26:09
Someone has got to do this. I have a 72% here from Tanzania. I want to try this; it is a little bit more robust, a little bit more tannins. So it may match up to the Zin.
Natalie MacLean 26:21
I felt that the Amarone and the dark chocolate worked for texture and taste. So the wine was lovely at first, and then I had the chocolate; it melted; and I guess chocolate melts at body temperature, I’ve heard but correct me if I’m wrong there. And then the wine came in and with its acidity and its richness, because Amarone is a big wine and this one’s 15% alcohol, but it also has a beautiful black cherry, river of black cherry and it just carried away the chocolate. Refreshing my palate literally, ready for the next bite. I just thought they really married well both in weight and taste. How about for you in that first chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 26:58
The first chocolate I thought went better. It was a little bit more fruity. A little bit more acidic. So it balanced out the Zin. I felt that the Tanzania bar was too tannic, and I got an off taste at the end, which is not pleasant.
Natalie MacLean 27:19
Off taste in the chocolate or the wine?
Roxanne Browning 27:22
Well both; just not a good combination.
Natalie MacLean 27:25
What’s happening when you get the off taste? Is it just one is too powerful? Or they’re just reacting together and not in a good way?
Roxanne Browning 27:31
Yeah, it’s a really bad reaction. It’s like oil and, you know, vinegar, I guess is the best way unless you really you know, mix it up, but it just did not taste well.
Natalie MacLean 27:46
Hmm. Okay. Well, do you think milk chocolate would be horrendous with Amarone? Or will it work? Because now we’ve got dairy content here.
Roxanne Browning 27:54
So you know, you got to try it just to see what doesn’t work. So I’m curious what your reaction is.
Natalie MacLean 28:00
I do love milk chocolate, but I’m changing my world slowly here. Oh, that Amarone, you know the chocolate has the perception or creates a perception of almost lightening the wine because the chocolate has this richness and denseness to it. Usually Amarone just hits me because it’s a big one. But this is having the influence of lightening and lifting the wine in a lovely way like making it almost feel like it’s a medium bodied wine rather than a full bodied one. I’m liking that
Roxanne Browning 28:32
You got that with the milk or the first chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 28:35
The first chocolate. Okay, I’m just eating the milk chocolate.
Roxanne Browning 28:36
Yeah, now your description sounds right on. Well, texture, as you said, plays a very important role. Mouthfeel, chocolate also has mouthfeel to it and thickness of the chocolate. For instance, I have this one here from Grenada, which is a very thick chocolate. I’m gonna try that next and it has cocoa nibs in it, which is part of the cacao bean. And some producers elect to put those in there just for crunch and for texture. It’s quite interesting. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 29:11
And so Okay, so you get that crunchy texture. It’s not quite the same, but you know, some vintners will include the stems or seeds to get an extra tannin component into their wine. But you don’t get crunchy bits. That interesting. I’m going to try this the wine now after the milk chocolate
Roxanne Browning 29:29
Well have them together in your math. Mix the chocolate and the wine together in your mouth.
Natalie MacLean 29:34
So it’s really difficult. A lot of dead air. But what I am noticing about the milk chocolate, is it’s grainy; I think I’m picking up the sugar or something in it. I like the dark chocolate better and it’s just a smooth river like the wine itself.
Roxanne Browning 29:51
Yeah. Yeah, I find that the better the wine, the better quality chocolate you need. Like an Amarone, like I have Barolos and super Tuscans. I have to have a very fine chocolate with those with a high cacao content or else it’s just not going to measure up. You need a bold chocolate with a bold wine.
Natalie MacLean 30:12
Yeah, the milk chocolate doesn’t work. It just feels wimpy and simple compared to the wine. It feels like there’s a grown up in a child or something.
Roxanne Browning 30:20
Yeah, yeah thank you. Oh, that’s, that’s very good.
Natalie MacLean 30:23
Okay. I still like milk chocolate, but not with the wine.
Roxanne Browning 30:26
I actually I pair white wines as well with chocolate. And well, again, it’s trial and error. But Chardonnay and Riesling is my general ones that I work with. And I have a white chocolate from the Philippines that really works well with a few of them, along with some spicy fusions. You know how white wine has a lot of spicy notes to it, sometimes a citrus notes, right? Yes, I have some chocolates that pair well with that. They have a banana or cayenne pepper in there, juniper and very interesting combinations.
Natalie MacLean 31:08
Well, there again, to draw another similarity. Those are bridging ingredients. Like when I talk about pairing wine with say a salad, with perhaps a vinaigrette, people think “Oh god, you can’t do it, there’s vegetables, there’s vinaigrette”. But if you have some bacon in there, that’s savoury, that can be the bridge that brings the two together and then they can work together; the wine and something unusual like that. So I’ve got chocolate with nuts in it. So that’s really going to influence the pairing isn’t it?
Unknown Speaker 31:36
Natalie MacLean 31:39
So much fun.
Roxanne Browning 31:39
I have a mocha chocolate from Madagascar that I’m going to try.
Natalie MacLean 31:44
Okay,what makes it mocha?
Roxanne Browning 31:46
Well, the chocolate maker infused espresso beans, and I have one here from Madagascar that’s phenomenal. And it’s very smooth. And I generally use this one with a full bodied red. If I’m going to use it, I usually use it my last pairing because it’s such a dynamic way to end an event. It tastes like dessert, you know, when you have a mocha? You know, it’s like coffee and chocolate and wine in your mouth.
Natalie MacLean 32:15
Hmm, that sounds so comforting too, kind of almost smoky and fireside or something. I’m back to that dark chocolate. I think I’m going to polish off what I have here.
Unknown Speaker 32:28
That one went well with it. Did it?.
Roxanne Browning 32:31
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 32:32
Nice. Well, are there any wines that you feel just don’t work? I know it’s about experimentation. But in all your trying and experimenting are there certain types of lines that just don’t really work well with both types of chocolate?
Roxanne Browning 32:49
I have to say I have not found an alcoholic beverage that does not pair with a chocolat because I have so many chocolates to choose from. And when I’m in the wine world, which is 99% of what I do, there is not a wine that I have not found a match for. But just to give you an idea, I don’t necessarily need to have very expensive wines to pair. A lot of producers that I work with, wine producers, have wines that are reasonably priced, and the chocolate makes their wines drink up. So you can have a $20 bottle that could taste like a $50 with the chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 33:31
Wow! I’ll keep drinking to that! Roxanne, this was a lot of fun. I mean, you have ruined me in terms of chocolate. I’m not going to the candy aisle anymore. But there is a world of difference here and a world of pleasure. So thank you for opening that up. And I would love to chat with you again sometime because I know this is a big topic and you know a lot about it. So
Roxanne Browning 33:52
Anytime. I’d love to thank you so much, Natalie.
Natalie MacLean 34:01
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Roxanne Browning. Here are my takeaways.
Number one, I love all the similarities Roxanne noted between wine and chocolate from the importance of terroir and where they’re grown to not being overly manipulated when they’re being made. Even the parallel between using sugar and dairy to mask poor cocoa beans is similar to using a lot of oak and high alcohol to cover up poor grapes.
Two, I didn’t realise that cocoa beans are fruit, not legumes or vegetables, because they grow on trees and therefore they have varying degrees of acidity like wine.
Three, Roxanne gives great advice for serving chocolate like cheese. Let it come up to room temperature to appreciate the aromas and flavours.
Four, in the future I’ll be looking to buy direct trade chocolate when I can to support farmers more fully and directly.
In the shownotes you’ll find links to the wines and chocolates we tasted, the video version of this chat so you can see the cocoa beans and other visuals Roxanne refers to, where you can find me on both Instagram and Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7pm, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/109.
If you’re interested in my hosting a wine and cheese or wine and chocolate tasting for your group, please email me at Natalie @nataliemaclean.com and you’ll also find my contact in the show notes.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’m going solo to share with you some tipsy adjectives for over sampling. Not that I’m encouraging you to over sample, but I find the language around this topic fascinating. And yes, sometimes humorous.
In the meantime, if you missed Episode 56 go back and take a listen. I chat with the restaurant guys, Mark Pascal and Francis Schott about Champagne. That’ll get you warmed up for your New Year. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
So you go into a restaurant, you sit down there’s a bit daunting wine list that’s a tome. What do you recommend? First of all I look at what kind of joint I’m in. Is this a classy place that has some staff who are going to be wine knowledgeable; could be a sommelier, could be the wine dude. But if there’s somebody there that I think really does know the list, I’m going to ask that person, the person who works in the restaurant always knows his or her wine list better than I do, because chances are they’ve tasted the wines on the list, let’s hope they have. And then if there’s really no one in sight, or no one’s coming forward in terms of who knows the list, I’m going to look for regions I may personally be familiar with, or what is this restaurant specialising in. If it’s an Italian restaurant, I’m going to look at the Italian list because it’s going to match the food most likely, but also let’s hope they have a special passion for the wine from that country. I’ll narrow it down further to that. And then of course, I’ll stay within my price range and I’ll hope for the best.
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine and chocolate pairing tips that Roxanne shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I wish you a Happy New Year and health, prosperity and lots of terrific wines in 2021. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a full bodied red wine that pairs beautifully with dark chocolate.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean/subscribe