Love chocolate? Love wine? How about chocolate AND wine in one carefully considered, masterfully selected, palate tantalisingly perfect combination? You’re thinking about it aren’t you? Did the corners of your mouth just twitch ever so slightly? Of course cheese and wine has always been a thing; an earthy red with a ripe Stilton – yeah yeah. A crisp Chardonnay with vintage cheddar, yes you’ve had us at crisp since the seventies. But how about a chunk of silky smooth dark chocolate filled with an orange and bergamot ganache waiting proudly alongside a glass of muscatel?
To celebrate the recent phenomenon that was National Chocolate Week, premium chocolate brand Lily O’Brien’s got together with wine expert Jilly Goolden to create a masterclass in chocolate and wine pairing. Mary Anne O’Brien, founder of the brand presented these to an unsurprisingly attentive audience in a display that was either akin to a culinary Absolutely Fabulous or was just simply absolutely fabulous. Jilly had clearly spent time and effort making her choices, (nice work if you can get it right?) and was more than proud to share them.
Other pairings included Lily O’Brien’s Malted Chocolate Crunch with a sweet Beaumes de Venise Muscat D’Or (£7.99 from Waitrose). Jilly’s tasting notes suggested that exotic tropical flavours would be suggested when this wine was sipped alongside the malty chocolate, and that this would be highlighted by the wine’s bright citrus acidity. Of course I wouldn’t know about such alchemy and was in too much of a pleasure trance to make the assessment, but then maybe that was the point.
Next on not the world’s worst to do list was Lily’s Ultimate Collection’s Death by Chocolate paired with a Kir (crème de Cassis with a dry white, or to push the boat out further, champagne to make it a Royale). Oh my days, Death by Chocolate and Kir Royale – together. Those ambassador’s parties they speak of, they’ve got nothing on this.
The pleasure went on. Jilly and Mary Ann enticed us with a Manzanilla Sherry paired with Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate, then a 12-year old Pedro Ximinez Sherry (£8 from Sainsbury’s) with the Ultimate Collection’s Caramel Macchiato. I made a mental note to treat my sherry loving gran to both of these this Christmas thus perennially guaranteeing my favourite grandchild status.
The final two pairings were sheer fun. A limoncello liqueur (£12 from Sainsbury’s) with Lily’s Ultimate Collection Lemon Meringue Pie, all my holidays flashed through my mind at once. And the finale, Dark Chocolate Peppermint Crunch with a twist of Basil with Tia Maria Espresso cocktail. (£15 Sainsbury’s). Yes, that included basil! And we’re done. Cheese, schmeese, I rather think I might be team chocolate.
And so, if you need a special treat as these nights draw in, why just have wine or just chocolate when they can be so much more joyful together? Entertaining this festive season? A wine and chocolate course in place of dessert sounds like a plan especially that aforementioned Lemon Meringue Pie combo. After dinner coffee – well how about the Tia Maria, Peppermint and Basil fusion? And when it just happens to be Friday, how about a chilled Prosecco and chocolate of any kind? That one was mine, Jilly – let’s talk. And if you think you can out do Jilly’s pairings, don’t forget to let Mary Ann know. Something tells me she’s very much the kind of gal that will listen.
- If you fancy trying these combinations for yourself, Lily O’Brien’s chocolates are available in major supermarkets and retail outlets including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Debenhams and online at www.lilyobriens.co.uk.