Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chocolate and Wine....or is it Chocolate and Coffee? Decaf please!

Today I am tasting something really special.  Well, I thought it was going to be a really special tasting when I bought the chocolate, but then quickly learned that I would not be able to enjoy it in the way it is intended, for a very long time!  What am I talking about, you may wonder? Here's the deal: I found a variety pack of BRIX Bites, a brand of chocolate that promotes its product as "chocolate for wine".  It has three varieties of chocolate, each with a wine listed on the front that you can pair it with.  Since most people do not know what type of wine to pair with the various categories of chocolate, I think this is a great idea.

I've had my eye on this chocolate for a long time, wanting to buy it and have a wine and chocolate tasting session with family or friends.  But I always looked at each "brick" in the Chapters gift section and thought, "ugh, it's too expensive, maybe another time" (I spent $13.99 on this variety pack for 170 grams). I thought about buying it as a gift for my sister-in-law, who would definitely appreciate it and possibly invite me to her tasting session, but then she got pregnant, so wine was out for awhile.  So in September I found myself exhibiting at a chocolate tradeshow, and at the booth next to mine, there was this box of BRIX variety pack for sale.  I finally couldn't resist and bought it, dreaming about the three bottles of wine that I was going to buy and the wonderful tasting session that I was going to have. 

The very next day, I learned that I was pregnant.  This wasn't a huge surprise, since my husband and I were trying to become pregnant, but I didn't think we had been successful that month, which is why I had bought the chocolate & wine pairing chocolates.

So I have this wonderful box sitting here on a shelf, and every time I open the cupboard and see it, I think about how long it will be before I can hold my chocolate and wine-tasting session.  Since I nursed my first child for a year, and could not drink alcohol during that time, I have realized that I am looking at an almost two year wait to have my chocolate & wine-tasting session!

So I've given up and decided to just taste the chocolate sans wine.  It'll be okay (or so I am trying to convincingly console myself).  If I like the chocolate, then I can treat myself in two years to another BRIX package and three bottles (oh heck, or six bottles!) of wine. And perhaps I can live vicariously through my readers.  If you want to try BRIX, perhaps you can have your own tasting and try this chocolate with the recommended wine pairings, then send me some feedback on your pairings.

 
I have started my tasting with the BRIX milk chocolate first. The package says it has 40% cacao and that it should be paired with a Pinot Noir, Port or Rose. Each piece is only 7 grams, which is great for a wine/chocolate tasting session.  In fact, it's great for any chocolate tasting session, because the remaining pieces stay fresh for your next tasting. Plus, it's good for portion-control, if you are concerned about that.

In tasting it, it is obvious that it has a high percentage of cacao solids. It also isn't overly sweet, but nice and creamy.  The flavour is good and tastes like it is made with single origin beans because there are strong (but nice) flavours in the chocolate itself.  Actually, the package claims the beans are specifically from Ghana. I like that they have used single origin beans here - it justifies the price and makes me feel like I am really tasting something of substance (as opposed to chocolate made from a variety of beans where all the bean's origin flavours have been blended out).

The 60% chocolate also has a nice strong smell to it - fruity and sweet with no overly woodsy or burnt odours. It's not that smooth.  And I'd say it tastes a little too sweet for a 60%.  Since "sugar" is listed as the first ingredient (meaning it has more sugar in it than any other individual ingredient by weight), that indicates to me that there is less cocoa butter than many other 60% bars.  That explains why it does not seem very creamy or smooth. This may be what the manufacturer wants though, since this chocolate is supposed to be paired with a Merlot, Shiraz, or Zinfandel (red).  Merlot and Shiraz are slightly sweeter wines, which would compliment the sweetness of the dark chocolate.

Finally, I am tasting the BRIX 70% Extra Dark, which is supposed to be paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon, one of my favourite types of wine, particularly when it is very dry and very bitter. (A dry old vines Zinfandel is my other favourite, in case you are interested.)  Based upon smell, this smells like a very, very sweet 70%. It doesn't taste quite as sweet as it smells though and it lacks vanilla flavour.  That is fine with me, but I'm unsure what the "natural favours" are that listed on the package, since vanilla is normally the flavour added to chocolate. Overall, it is a good chocolate made from flavourful beans.  I could see how it might compliment a glass of Cabernet. 

As you may be able to tell by now, when pairing wine and chocolate, you should always pair the sweeter wines with sweeter chocolates (for instance, sparkling white wine with white chocolate or milk chocolate with white wine), and darker, dryer wines with bitter chocolate (semisweet 59-64% with a Merlot or Beaujolais, bittersweet 70% and above with a Cabernet Sauvignon).

Since I could not have wine with my chocolate, I opted for a decaf coffee and did a little pairing of my own.  I re-tasted each of the BRIX milk, 60% and 70% chocolates with a Bridgehead Espresso Roast Decaf coffee and found that the milk chocolate was okay with it, but the 70% dark chocolate went the best with the coffee.  The flavours of each the chocolate and the coffee were enhanced, whereas the 60% chocolate changed the flavour of the coffee to something not so tasty.  The same general rules go for coffee and chocolate pairing as for wine - that is, the darker & more bitter the coffee, the darker & more bitter the chocolate to taste with it.

So although BRIX chocolate was not the best chocolate I have ever tasted (the milk chocolate was the best of the three and superior to other milk chocolates that I've tried), BRIX is a fun and innovative way to enjoy chocolate.  I think the manufacturers have done a great job to market this product, and to give us an easy and reliable way to pair wine and chocolate. I am excited to go through this tasting again in the future with actual wine! Only one year and seven months to go, but who is counting?

On a side note, the coffee I mentioned above is from Bridgehead, a small coffee chain in Ottawa, Canada.  They focus solely on fairly traded, organic and shade-grown  coffees from small-scale farmers.  I think they are great and their coffee is tasty.  It is a fantastic alternative to Starbucks, if you are organic- and fair-trade-conscious, and their coffee flavour is just as strong as Starbucks. They care about the environment overall, and if you are in the Ottawa area, they offer a great atmosphere to sit and enjoy your coffee.  Check out their web site and order online.  Their Espresso Roast is full-bodied, as are many of their other coffee bean varieties. If you are in one of their cafe's, try their chocolatine's (chocolate croissants), they are fantastic and in traditional French-style.
Here are further details on the BRIX variety pack that I tasted today:

BRIX BITES, chocolate for wine, 170 grams
Made by: BRIX Chocolate, Rutherford, CA
Milk chocolate ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin, and natural flavours. 40% cacao. Pair with: Pinot Noir, Port, Rose.
Medium (60%) chocolate ingredients: sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, and natural flavours. 60% cacao.  Pair with: Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel.
Extra Dark (70%) chocolate ingredients: chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and natural flavours.  Pair with: Cabernet, Bordeaux.

2 comments:

  1. Now that I can have a little wine again, I can tell you that the BRIX Bites "Extra Dark" pairs well with the rather inexpensive 2010 Misterio Cabernet Sauvignon by Finca Flichman (Argentina), although the combination is a little acidic.

    The BRIX Bites "Medium Dark" pairs well with a vintage Bird in the Hand Two in the Bush (Australia, 2009) Shiraz. That one was a perfect match in my opinion!

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