Wine and crisps

My Friday night tipple tonight is a lovely 10 year old Ermita de San Lorenzo 2005 from Spain. In typical style for a Spanish Gran Reserva, the nose and the palate fill with velvet black cherry, mature wood, vanilla, spice and chocolate notes (my definition of divine!).

The addition of chocolate to the palate had me recalling a comment I recently made on a wine forum. With this weekend being Easter, much discussion in the wine world is being given over to what wines to match with either your lamb or with your chocolate treats. Maybe I’m weird but I’ve never had the urge to pair a wine with chocolate. At this point it’s worth mentioning that I’m no more than a (very) casual eater of chocolate in the first place, and that it doesn’t excite me in the way that other foods do (indeed, I still have a lot of odd chocolate still hanging around from Christmas). Thinking about it though, I don’t think the lack of pairing excitement comes from my passing liking of chocolate (I’ve considered and executed wine pairings with odd fish varieties that I’ve perhaps only had once in my life), I think it’s more about how we tend to eat chocolate, and why people would actually want to drink wine at the same time.

Now of course wine isn’t exclusively meant to be drunk at mealtimes (I’m very guilty of this!), but a lot of the point in creating a food and wine pairing as I see it, is to compliment the liquid with the food. This can help to bring out diverse characteristics in each by either matching, or by off-setting flavour components. This makes sense when thinking about how to augment starters, main courses, desserts, and cheese boards, for which wine is a potential liquid accompaniment. Obviously some puddings do feature chocolate as a partial or core ingredient, but the only place that chocolate will likely feature as a key place in a meal is with the coffee, and that’s clearly been catered for – the sweetness of the chocolate is there to juxtapose the bitterness of the coffee. After all, we don’t find ourselves expecting a wine and chocolate course at the end of dinner, do we?

In order to have a fully rounded appreciation of wine, with all the full facets and potential unearthed, I have no problem with others enjoying merging the two experiences, I’m just not sure how necessary it is. For instance, I’d be interested to know if anyone would go so far as to base their evening wine choice around such a small aspect of any menu (or treat before bedtime), or even to heading out to buy a specific chocolate because it pairs well with their Spanish Reserva?

It feels like people are trying to find the perfect wine match for any food. Take, for example, a popular food like crisps (although my wife correctly informs me that Walkers/Jacobs Creek did in fact run a crisps/wine match promo a few years back). OK, so no one has described a wine of tasting like one flavour of crisps that needs to be compared to another, as you could potentially do with chocolate characters, but it feels like you would only need to conduct such an experiment from a challenge or experience perspective. In terms of how wine will actually be drunk of an evening, is the match key?

Maybe I’m wrong, I’m missing out and I need to arrange a tasting? As a UK consumer I only own/get gifted/buy regular milk chocolate (as I suspect the majority of UK people do), rather than artisanal blends from far flung corners of the chocolate making world, each out-doing the other with increasing amounts of pure cocoa. From an academia point of view, a full range of differing chocolate versus differing wine would make an interesting piece – for example, does Argentinian chocolate go with Argentinian Malbec? Personally I don’t think it’s of any use for everyday drinking.

Perhaps the question is being asked wrong? Maybe, instead of the wine world asking “which chocolate would you pair with your wine, it should be left to the chocolate critics to ask “what wine would you pair with your chocolate?”

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