Who can think about a Valentine’s Day without thinking about chocolate and wine? But the flavours of chocolate and wine sometimes are not very compatible, and when it comes to pairing, the task may seem intimidating.
Chocolate and its many facets – sweetness, bitterness, acidity and fruitiness – harmonize into an intense treat. Paired together with an equally intense wine, such as those with a fruity personality, dark chocolate in the form of truffles with soft and smooth centers and tempered squares will create an overwhelming euphoric sensation that unfolds slowly as each aspect of your palate is tickled.
When it comes to all things wine, Capital Lifestyle went to one of Nairobi’s up-and-coming waterholes, The Wine Shop, to learn more about the ethereal pairing of wine with chocolate.
At The Wine Shop, it’s clear that the fascination of wine is carried across the whole venture and its modest space. From the custom-made high-table filled with re-purposed wine bottle corks, to the floor to ceiling shelves of the imaginative and extensive stock.
I particularly enjoyed the rustic chalkboard platter that my trio of wines arrived on. It reminded me of dining al fresco, possibly high above a vineyard, and the whimsical scribbling of chalk brought a sense of charm and comfort to otherwise an experience that most people usually may find intimidating or complicated.
We began with a Dark Chocolate Mint Truffle paired with a 2013 Merlot from South East Australia. This Aussie red from Hardy’s was smooth and incredibly soft. Its medium-body was elevated by lovely plum flavours and a subtle touch of spice. At first I thought the mint would over power the wine, but instead it worked perfectly to balance out the tannins and elevate the sweetness of the chocolate.
Then there was the lovely 2011 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Coconut Balsamic Chili Chocolate Truffle. This Californian wine from Woodbridge was incredibly aromatic with flavours of berries and the toastiness from oak barriques. The complexity was elevated with notes of cocoa and subtle spices that were accentuated by the sweetness and acidity in the truffle. The ganache was absolutely delicious with the chocolate center infused with a balsamic reduction. The dusting of grated Kenyan coconut of the truffle complemented the woodiness of the wine.
Pinot Noir is one of the sexiest, prettiest, and to the winemakers the most demanding of the grapes. This 2012 New Zealand Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford was enticingly aromatic and had notes of blackberries, cherries, plums and strawberries. Clearly a good year, this Pinot Noir was both smooth and supple. The subtle smokiness worked well with the Roast Chili Salted Spiced Chocolate. The luscious square of chocolate was infused with sugar, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon and salt, which paired well with the peppery intensity and earthy details of spice in the Pinot Noir. This was by far the most complex in flavour and my favourite pairing of the evening.
At the end, my companion and I agreed we could imagine coming back here a lot and sharing the wine and chocolate experience with our girlfriends. The trio of wine and chocolate pairing at The Wine Shop will set you back KSh 1,000 – which is a steal in my books, considering the house sommelier will guide you through your experience, great cozy ambiance, a delicious offering, and that we were able to forget all of the day’s worries.