Last Thursday I attended a raw chocolate and wine, pairing and masterclass at Laithwaite’s Wine, under the arches, at London Bridge. I didn’t know what to expect. Having never tried raw chocolate before, I had always rather associated it with the unappealing crumbly dry stuff one might buy from a health food store during an extreme diet or midlife crisis. Furthermore, while I love my wines, I hadn’t ever really associated them with chocolate. Cheese and crackers, absolutely! A nice leg of lamb with a glass of Shiraz, yes please!! But chocolate? Not so much.
I was about to be surprised. Firstly, I was rather delighted to discover that the chocolates were not all being brought in. Instead, some were being made on site, and we were to be given the opportunity to learn how to make them ourselves under the tutelage of nutritionist and raw chocolate enthusiast, Chen Arbiv. They seemed surprisingly simple to make with the added benefit of having great health properties including being rich in vitamins B, C and A. Hooray! Fantastic news.
My little fingers were itching to get a hold of a chocolate and have a taste of that first wine. The chocolate, while dark, was unexpectedly sweet, creamy and with a strong hit of coconut. The first one we tried was flavoured with Goji berries. It melted on the tongue, while the berries added an extra tangy crunch. So delicious, and even more so because it was unexpected. While I really enjoyed the paired wine, a Domaine Pardon Cuvée de l’Ermitage 2014, Beaujolais Villages AOC of it’s own, for my taste it overpowered the flavour of the chocolate. Interestingly, some of the others disagreed, believing that the wine enhanced the chocolate and was a successful match.
The Monti Selezione Chardonnay 2014, Langhe DOC wasn’t my favourite on first taste but it blended perfectly and was improved by the raw cashew nut chocolate to create a delicious combination. The inclusion of the cashews seemed particularly relevant to the success of this pairing for me, cutting the sweetness of the coconut and creating a more earthy flavour.
My favourite mix was the raw cinnamon chocolate paired with the Barón de Barbón Gran Reserva 2005. Fantastic wine, and the mild spice at the back of the palette from the cinnamon really took it to another level. The raw salt and peanut chocolate combined with the Barbeito 10 year old Sercial Reserva Velha NV, Madeira was also, in my eyes, a winner.
Learning from Grant and Chen was a genuine pleasure. Both are generous with their knowledge and express it in a way that is both detailed and accessible. I especially appreciate how Grant discusses and analyses the wines with humour, and lacking the pretentiousness that can at times punctuate the industry. Everyone was given the opportunity to share their thoughts. Different opinions, rather than promoting disagreement, was a successful tool to enhance learning and establish a forum for discussion, leading to more comprehensive understanding.
Everyone was in fine form by the end of the evening. Honestly though, who wouldn’t be? Raw chocolate and wine for dinner… What a treat!!
Upcoming tastings and masterclasses:
Laithwaite’s Wine – The Arch