He may not have a whiskered nose or a powder-puff tail, but Peter Ranscombe has sweet and savoury wines to pair with chocolate dishes for Easter.
LET me start with a confession – I love chocolate.
Whether it’s dark, milk or white, I just can’t get enough of the stuff.
Unless you’re going to slip a slither of gooey mint fondant inside it then I’d prefer mine unadulterated; so many amazing chocolates are simply spoiled by coffee or nuts.
But, in the hands of Scottish Field‘s guest chefs, this month’s star ingredient will sing amid tortes, hazelnuts and even venison, for which we enlist some more savoury wine options…
Gonzalez Byass Matusalem 30-year-old Oloroso Sherry
£19.99 for 375ml
Forget Grandma’s sticky sideboard Christmas tipple, this is nutty sweet sherry at its hazelnut-matching best. This dinky wee half-bottle is packed full of powerful nutty, chocolate, coffee and woodsmoke aromas, leading into even more nutty, caramel and toffee notes on the palate. Adding 25% pedro ximenez grapes to the dominant palomino variety adds to the sherry’s richer and thicker consistency. Aged for 30 years, it’s even older than some of the jumpers at the back of this tight-fisted Highlander’s wardrobe. Part of Gonzalez Byass’ “rare old soleras” range, which also includes the legendary Noe pedro ximenez, the very reason we have the word “lush” in the English language.
Le Faîte Rouge St Mont
Corney & Barrow
For something a wee bit drier to pair with your chocolate head to the foothills of the Pyrenees. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I had to go scrambling through my wine textbooks to remind myself that Saint-Mont is an appellation – or wine-producing area – in the Gers region of South-West France. And no, before you ask, there’s not a “Hoops” region next door either. On the nose, this is smoky and savoury, with blackcurrant aromas, but it’s the butterscotch and toffee flavours that rule the palate. There’s a healthy twist of fresh acidity too to stop the whole shebang from becoming cloying. Plus, it comes in what’s arguably the most gorgeous bottle ever, not only boasting a wax seal but also a dangling wooden label.
Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port, 2012
My personal pick to pair with David Hetherington’s chocolate torte; a grown-up port for grown-up desserts. Let’s face it, port can sometimes be pretty dull, so it’s always a good sign when my tasting notes are peppered with words like “fresh”, “bright” and “exciting”. Wood smoke, black cherry and – importantly – dark chocolate dominate the nose, with fresher blackcurrant, redcurrant and black and red cherries moving to the fore on the palate, amid a sweet shop’s worth of vanilla and milk and dark chocolate. Check out Noval’s “Black” and tawny incarnations too for further chocolate matching options, as I discovered when I visited the quinta in Portugal back in 2018.
Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016
You’d pay thrice the price in Bordeaux or Napa for chocolate-laced cab sav like this South African venison verifier. Hailing from Stark-Condé’s Three Pines vineyard in South Africa’s Jonkershoek Valley, the dark chocolate notes on the nose weave around the black cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant aromas, as well as pencil lead shavings from the 4% touch of cabernet franc that goes into the blend, alongside 6% petit verdot and 2% malbec. The chocolate and vanilla on the palate – enhanced by 20 months spent in small French oak barrels – work well with the dark fruit flavours and there are also chewy but well-integrated tannins to handle the venison.
Casal dei Ronchi Recioto Classico
£39.99 for 500ml
Valpolicella as you’ve never seen it before, with enhanced sweetness to beef up its chocolate-matching capabilities. The corvina grape, which makes up 70% of the blend, is left on the vine to be affected by botrytis, a form of fungus that swallows up the water in the berries, leaving behind even more concentrated sugars and fruit flavours. The fruit is laid out to dry on bamboo racks for at least three months – a method known as “appassimento”. The result of all that tomfoolery is heavy coal smoke and herbal notes in amongst the black cherry and black plum on the nose. There’s still plenty of acidity to keep the wine fresh, with those sweet black cherry and vanilla notes morphing into brighter red cherry touches on the finish.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/