In the first part, Geoffrey Orban shared his vision of food and wine pairings which he has made a specialty of. In this second part, he tells us more specifically about the so-called “impossible” pairings with wine : chocolate, cigar and coffee.
Why is chocolate difficult to pair with wines? And more specifically with champagne?
Black chocolate has bitterness and can be dense, leaving small, compact pieces after chewing. Champagne stands no chance!
The bitterness calls for a contrast with the sweetness embodied by sweet wines – including champagne. With chocolate, champagne pairings are complicated. However, but the little that we manage to achieve is worth the detour! If we do not want to go for a high dosage, we need a chocolate rich in cocoa – but not bitter! – and which breaks down and melt easily when chewing. After this common sense basis, anything goes. Champagne is not primarily intended to replace sweet wines, natural sweet wines or liqueur wines, but it is a possible alternative offering pairings of rare elegance.
How to choose the chocolate market and the chocolates to enable a successful harmony?
For chocolate, it is absolutely necessary to test things. Indeed, most of the chocolate makers do not have the same feeling on the degree of bitterness and compaction than wine or champagne connoisseurs.
This is certainly due to the fact that they are told that these agreements are impossible rather than finding the right solutions. Champagne itself can be reluctant to develop the approach.
From a practical point of view : ask your chocolate maker for chocolates and ganaches that are not much bitter and nor compact. Buy four chocolates and take four very different champagnes. Test each champagne on each chocolate – which you have previously cut into small pieces to facilitate chewing. And have your own experience. Pairings is about pleasure.
What about the cigars: why are they so difficult to pair with wine? And more specifically with champagne? Why do we choose spirits instead?
The smoky and woody character of the cigar persists on the palate and dominates the fine nuances of a wine. It requires a power, wine with character, which has developed a certain concentration and nuances of aging. On the contrary, Spirits, natural sweet wines and liqueur wines can offer this benefit.
The elegance and fine nuances of a champagne wine are easily dominated by the power of the tactile and aromatic persistence of the cigar. Only a good choice of cigar associated with a sappy champagne having developed all its power seems to me to be a way to explore.
In your opinion why is coffee seen as an impossible pairing with wine? And especially with champagne?
I think because nobody thought about it before! The difficulty lies in the bitterness and warmth that dominate the aromatic finesse and “freshness” of the wine.
It’s the same answer for champagne. However, you can play on cold and not very bitter, but rather aromatic, coffee and on other types of hot coffee preparations but of remarkable finesse.