Thursday, 15 May 2014

Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Tasting

Brought to you thanks to Christina Pickard's School of Wine

A little while ago, I nervously sent an email to Christina Pickard to ask her for some advice on my quest to expand the horizons of my wine knowledge.  I had seen her name popping up around the Perth wine scene in SCOOP magazine and through her School of Wine events in bars around Perth. My email felt like a bit of a 'stab in the dark', as I never really expected to hear back from such a successful and well-travelled wine writer and entrepreneur.  

So I was ecstatic to receive a detailed and thoughtful reply from Christina, complete with a suggestion for assistance with some future wine tasting events.  This resulted in my involvement with the School of Wine's Sparkling Wine and Chocolate Tasting event yesterday.  I was lucky enough to assist with serving the wine and chocolate and learnt much about the pairing of these two luxury items in the process. 

Unlike the majority of the female population, I am not a huge chocolate fan.  Neither is sparkling wine my first drink of choice (although I am always happy to have a dabble). However, some of the selections and pairings I was exposed to last night may have changed my opinion.

Here is a list of the sparkling wines and their matching chocolate creations that were up for tasting at the event.  I have included a very brief background note about each wine and chocolate.  I was impressed that 7 of the 8 chocolates were hand made in Western Australia.

 1. Jacquesson Cuvee 736 NV, Champagne 
90% estate grown grapes, unfiltered to preserve flavour.  A creamy, yeasty mineral bomb!

with Bahen & Co. almond and sea salt 70% dark chocolate
From a family operated farm in Margaret River.

Jacquesson Cuvee
2. La Riva dei Frati Prosecco, Treviso
Ah prosecco: so crisp, fresh and simple. Crisp, green apples.
with Chocolate Drops cashew nut and dark chocolate swills
From a specialty shop in beautiful Yanchep National Park.
La Riva dei Frati Prosecco
3. Louis Buillot Cremant de Bourgogne 'Perle d'Aurore' Brut Rose
80% pinot noir, 20% gamay, salmon colour.  Silky strawberries on a sea of cream.
with Andersen Cacao dark chocolate with rose petals
A raw food creation based on Cacao and Agave Syrup from a Perth local.

4. Paul Bara Brut Reserve NV, Champagne
Grower champagne from low-yielding vineyards.  Complex, spicy and very underrated!
with John Walker Champagne truffles
From Perth's oldest and most awarded chocolatier.

5. Sittella Blanc de Blancs NV, Swan Valley
100% Chardonnay grapes from Pemberton.  Crunchy pears.
with John Walker dark chocolate buttons

6. Jansz Rose Vintage 2009, Tasmania
A step up from the well-known Jansz NV cuvee.  Complex, elegant and classy.
with Fremantle Chocolate aniseed and rose truffles
from the founder of Margaret River Fudge Factory.

Paul Bara, Sittella and Jansz
7. Orange Tractor 'Spark Plug' Merlot 2010, Albany
Natural wine.  Intensely intriguing, dry and earthy with hints of mulled wine.
with Lindt Excellence 'Orange Intense' dark chocolate
from the renowned European establishment.

8. Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2007
Made in the traditional South Australian style with vintage port sweetener.  Too sweet for me.
with Bahen & Co. chilli and salt 70% dark chocolate

Sparkling Merlot vs Sparkling Shiraz
One of Christina's key points on the night was that wine and food pairings can be either contrasting or complementary.  Sometimes this concept is hard to grasp fully when matching wine with a meal, as there can be a number of different flavours and elements in the dish, adding complexity and confusion.

I found that in experimenting with the different sparkling wines and chocolates, the concept of pairing was stripped down to its bare essentials, due to the very clear key elements in each wine or chocolate.  It was also fun to 'mix and match' to discover new flavour combinations.  As an observer, I noticed that the conversations really opened up between guests who had not known each other at the start of the night, as the basic human enjoyments of beautiful wine and food, compounded by the excitement of trying new flavour experiences, relaxed inhibitions.

Thanks to Christina for a wonderful evening of wine education.  It was inspirational to watch and learn from a professional in action.