Champagne and Chocolate – An Uneasy Pairing
Marie Gantois of Chocolats Mococha—our favorite chocolate shop on rue Mouffetard in Paris—is a never-ending source of inspiration when it comes to chocolate tasting. One of the events that she recently organized at her shop was a Champagne and chocolate tasting. Alexandre Billon, a wine merchant from the nearby shop La Fontaine aux Vins, supplied the Champagne.
Marie declared that the purpose of the tasting was to challenge the idea that Champagne doesn’t go well with chocolate.
Alexandre began by pouring a Ronseaux-Wanner Grand Cru 2005. He explained that the older the Champagne, the fewer bubbles it will have because the carbonation slowly escapes through the Champagne cork over time. Indeed, this grand cru did not have as much fizz as a younger Champagne. I found its taste quite bitter.
Although participants enjoyed the Champagne, Marie circulated with trays of different ganache (cream-filled) chocolates. We tried several with this wine, and I succeeded in determining that a fig-flavored ganache by Rémi Henry did indeed complement the Champagne. However, this was not because of the chocolate, but because of the fig—the sweetness of the fruit offset the bitterness of the Champagne.
Alexandre then poured a Robert Desbrosse 2006. I found it to be only mildly bitter, which to my mind gave it a better chance at harmonizing with chocolate. I thought that it went well with a peach-flavored ganache called Péché by Fabrice Gillotte, again because the chocolate was flavored with fruit, but it also went well with a bitter-sweet praline chocolate called Muscovado by the same producer. Together in the mouth, the Desbrosse and the Muscovado tasted like sweet, liquid chocolate.
The third Champagne was a Drappier Brut Nature, produced from 100% Pinot Noir grape. Its label indicated that it was zéro dosage, meaning that it did not receive a liqueur de dosage (a small quantity of cane sugar mixed with champagne) during its production. Dry and refreshing, it went well with Amandes “turbinées” (milk-chocolate coated almonds) by Fabrice Gillotte. I attributed this harmony to the flavor of the almonds, not to the flavor of the chocolate in which they were enrobed.
By the end of the event, while I enjoyed some fine Champagne and chocolate, I remained unconvinced that they complemented each other. The production of Champagne and chocolate is a complex process, and in my mind, they emerge as finished products that should be enjoyed on their own merits.
However, if one feels compelled to drink wine with chocolate, I recommend Banyuls, a fortified red wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.