Before moving from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest a couple years ago, I spent a year as an “Oompa Loompa” at Manoa Chocolate Factory, a bean-to bar chocolate company located on the beautiful island of Oahu . I was part time chocolate assistant/part time sommelier for Manoa’s wine and chocolate pairing events.
As you can deduce, the homework for the pairing events was pleasant. The beginning phase of planning, I purchased the wines and did first round tastings. Preliminary tastings were important because just as wines change by vintages, chocolate changes by batches. Final tastings with the boss and a few co-workers ensured perfect pairings and consistently successful events. There were two approaches with the pairings, either find a pairing where the wine flows seamlessly with the chocolate or contrasts to make for an unexpected yet pleasant sensory exercise. The tasting experience involved sipping the wine paying attention to the aromas and flavors in the glass, then tasting the chocolate paying attention to the aromas and flavors of the chocolate. A final sip of the wine paying attention to how the wine flows or contrasts with the chocolate finished up the tasting.
As we’re coming into the holiday season (marketed ridiculously early), a wine and chocolate pairing party is a great excuse to come together and celebrate. As I mentioned, it is hard to make blanket statements on pairings but here are a few ideas to get you started:
70% Sea Salt chocolate – pair with a crisp white wine such as Chablis, Verdejo or Falanghina
60% Lavender chocolate – pair with a fruity red wine with notes of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries such as Beaujolais, a young Pinot Noir or even a youthful Rioja
60% Spicy Pepper chocolate – pair with a sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Cava or a crisp white wine such as Albarino or Grüner Veltliner
60% Coffee and/or Cacao Nib chocolate – pair with a powerful red wine such as Syrah, Shiraz, Petite Sirah or a Port
Purchase Manoa Chocolate bars here.