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Flavor Basics Class by Lisa Mecray Rogers

Back to school for you too! Do you know these wine and chocolate flavor basics?

Ready for back to school? Oh boy. This week is crazy getting everything together for the kids, making sure they have all school supplies, clothes to impress and finally completing The Schedule! Well, I’ve got some schooling for you when it comes to what you taste and smell in wine and chocolate. And some are not widely known!

Where does the wine color come from?

Pretty much, all wine grapes produce clear juice. Red wines get color from the skins, which are included when a red wine is being fermented. White wines usually are fermented only from juice. This is why they are much lighter in color. Pink or blush wines are typically made with a fermentation of red wine juice and skins, and then removing the skins after a short period of time during the fermentation process. The inclusion or exclusion of the skins has a great impact not only on the color, but also the tannins and aroma of the wine.

What influences the flavors and aromas of wine and chocolate?

Have you wondered where those amazing flavors and fragrances of wine and chocolate really come from? It’s the grape and the cacao (cocoa bean), right? Well, not completely.

Believe it or not, there are many similarities in the factors that impact aroma and flavor characteristics of wine and chocolate. It’s multifold. Different grape varieties and different types of cacao impart their own flavors. Yes, just like grapes, there are many different varieties of cacao - Forastero, Criollo (prized for fruity flavors), Trinitario and hundreds of hybrids. Terroir or location, type of soil and climate of where the grapes and cacao are grown also impacts the flavors and aromas. And what about the craftsmanship of the wine and the chocolate maker? Absolutely! The maker’s complex and often secret processes can include the blending of different types of grapes or beans from different locales, various techniques (amount of fermentation time, with and without the grape skins etc), the maturity of the cacao being used as well as the toasting and drying process of that cacao and the addition of flavorings have a great impact. And then there is aging and storage conditions that continue to evolve all of these characteristics. Additionally with chocolate, the flavors imparted are also greatly influenced by the % of cacao being used in the formulation. See below for more information regarding cacao percentages.

So in sum, the influences of flavors and aromas are many! Just remember that as all Cabernet Sauvignon wines are not alike, it is the same with chocolate! Just because you may have not liked a 72% dark chocolate from one chocolate maker, doesn’t mean you won’t love another from a different chocolate maker.

Does temperature impact the flavors and aromas of wine and chocolate?

Absolutely! The temperature at which a wine and a chocolate is served is critical to its flavors and aromas. Serving them at recommended temperatures brings out their intended flavor profile, character and bouquet (fragrance). And yes, chocolate has bouquet! Serving wine or chocolate too cold or too warm? You’ll certainly miss out. The rule is…too cold and the flavors and aromas are muted and when serving too warm they get flat and flabby (and melty!)

Wine: For whites, serve between 45 and 50°F, depending on the varietal. The lighter the body is, the cooler it should be. For example, Champagne, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are best closer to 45°F, while Chardonnay and Viognier should be at 50°F. For whites it’s about accentuating its acidity.

For reds, serve between 55 and 65°F, depending on the varietal, to balance the acidity and other characteristics. A Pinot Noir should be served between 55 and 60°F while a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and other reds between 60 and 65°F.

Also, if you have discovered the wine you’re serving doesn’t taste very good, serve it cooler than you should in order to mute the flavors and aroma! A nice trick to have in your back pocket.

Chocolate: Chocolate should be enjoyed at room temperature between 65-70 degrees. This allows the chocolate to begin to melt the moment it hits your mouth. Cold temperatures don’t allow the chocolate to release its flavors and aromas as quickly and will impact your tasting experience.

What does the percentage mean on a chocolate package?

The % cacao that you see printed on chocolate labels indicates the % of cacao solids and cocoa butter vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate, the more chocolate flavor and the less sugar…and the healthier it is for you! But keep in mind that all chocolate with the same percentage will not taste the same! See above for why that’s true. And note. that the average milk chocolate bar in the US has approx.. 11% cacao…meaning 89% sugar! Yikes. Time to go to the dark side and enjoy chocolate as it was intended to be.

So take a breath, sit down (for a least a few minutes!) and enjoy a glass of your favorite wine and a tasty morsel of chocolate and let a smile of relief come your way!

That’s your homework for today!

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder ofLuxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.


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