By Bernard Pacyniak 

If, as Louis Pasteur claimed, that “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages,” what better way to double that elixir’s potency than by pairing it with another antioxidant-rich gift from the gods, chocolate. 

Although it might be hard to find any doctors prescribing wine and chocolate pairings to relieve any specific maladies, it’s certain that combining the two - once considered tricky at best - can lift souls, and perhaps sales.  

Although wine has a long history of accompanying and highlighting food, much of that stemmed from combining local wines with local foods. The practice and “art” of specifically pairing wines to certain foods has evolved dramatically during the last 20 or so years, intensifying and elevating the relationship between grapes and grub. 

 Most recently, the practice of pairing chocolate with wine has gained popularity amongst connoisseurs as well as common folk simply because the two offer indulgence in a most pleasing and palatable manner. 

At the behest  of Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner, Jessica Trent, a certified specialist of wine (CSW) for Chicago’s Field Museum, was asked to pair several wines with an assortment of chocolates. Godiva’s chef chocolatiers also added their comments about the pairings.  

he chocolates and wines were generously supplied by Godiva Chocolatier and Kendall-Jackson. Trent, who shares her love of wine by teaching Wine 101 to people in sales as well as staff from other Chicago special events venues - she’s the only CSW employed at a Chicago non-profit special events department and only one of 10 at institutions worldwide - advises fledgling connoisseurs to follow some simple rules when doing a tasting. Typically, when sampling wines, tasters should start with the lightest and end with the heaviest, she urges. 

Red wines have tannins that coat the tongue and affect your taste buds, Trent adds. A good rule of thumb to remember:  The heavier the food, the heavier the wine should be.

First, before anything else, after the wine is poured, tasters should give the glass a swirl; this opens up the wine and gives it oxygen, Trent says. 

 “Second, sniff it; what aromas can you detect?” she says. 

 And now the third step, sip it, taking in air while doing so. Then swallow. 

“Think of it from the tip of your tongue to the back of your tongue,” Trent says. “Wine is like a book; it should have a story – a beginning, middle and end. 

“Wines with a long finish are those you can taste long after you’ve swallowed,” she continues. “Other wines have a big taste up front. It’s personal preference; some people don’t want a wine that lingers, and some do.”

Godiva Chocolatier chocolates and Kendal-Jackson wines as paired by Jessica Trent, supplemented with comments from Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster, Randy Ullom and Godiva’s chef chocolatiers: 

Vintner’s Reserve, Summation, White Table Wine, California, 2009 
“…Summation mingles refreshing flavors of honeydew melon, apricot, pink grapefruit and white pepper. Added hints of honeysuckle and a creamy mouth feel result in a soft, dry wine.” - Randy Ullom   

With Godiva White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Tablet   
Upon detecting peach and melon notes in the wine, Trent noted that “Because the Summation is creamier, it brings out the vanilla in the chocolate.”     

Vintner’s Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma 63%, Napa 30% and Mendocino counties 7%, 2007 “Opens with deep black cherry, blackberry and cassis flavors. Intense, round and well-structured tannins provide a strong backbone throughout the middle. Cedar and vanilla notes linger on the finish...” - Randy Ullom   

 With Godiva Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao Tablet   
In this wine, Trent detected plenty of fruit, “particularly blackberries, blueberries …The darker chocolate works best with this because the bitterness of the chocolate brings out the sweetness of the wine. They really complement each other well. You get the richness of the chocolate and it makes the wine taste sweeter. The chocolate coats your taste buds so that when you drink the wine, you only get the sweet.”

Vintner’s Reserve, Chardonnay, California, 2008 
“This chardonnay bursts with tropical flavors such as mango, papaya and pineapple with citrus notes that explode in your mouth. These flavors delicately intertwine with aromas of green apple and pear to create depth and balance throughout. A hint of toasted oak rounds out the long lingering finish.” - Randy Ullom

“Has tastes of mature lemons with hints of pineapple, oaky notes with a slightly toasted note. Nice buttery notes that rounded off the flavor. Recommend Solid Milk Chocolate GEMS and Milk Truffle GEMS as a pairing.” - Godiva’s chef chocolatiers   

With Godiva Gems Milk Chocolate Solids   
This chardonnay, which is aged in oak, delivers a toasty, buttery flavor, Trent says.  

“I smell really ripe pineapple, a little bit of buttered popcorn and a little bit of vanilla in the wine,” she says, adding “it’s got a nice citrusy taste, kind of creamy, too. 

As far as chocolate, it’s very milky, Trent points out. They pair nicely with the wine, actually making the GEMS taste richer. “ 

With the GEM, you pick up more of the wine’s acidity and more of the richness of the chocolate; they bring out something in each other,” she adds.

Vintner’s Reserve, Pinot Noir, California, 2008 
“Black cherry and raspberry fruit with velvety tannins typically found in hillside grapes along the North Coast mingle with flavors of plum and spice from our benchland vineyards along the Central Coast. Oak aging adds hints of vanilla, nuances of toast and a soft, smoky finish.” - Randy Ullom   

With Godiva Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate Hazelnut 41% Cacao Tablet   
No hesitation on Trent’s part here regarding the wine,  “I taste really red cherries … spicy on the end, an earthy spice.” 

As for the pairing, she likes “the salt of the hazelnut in the chocolate,” which pairs well with the wine. “The sweetness of the wine really brings more of the sharp hazelnut flavor out through the chocolate; conversely, the saltiness of the hazelnut brings out the sweetness of the cherry of the wine.”   

Grand Reserve, Sonoma County, 2007, Merlot 
“Black cherry and raspberry fruit with velvety tannins typically found in hillside grapes along the North Coast mingle with flavors of plum and spice from our benchland vineyards along the Central Coast. Oak aging adds hints of vanilla, nuances of toast and a soft, smoky finish.” - Randy Ullom  

“Fruity notes of blackberry, eucalyptus, mint, slight oak notes. Dry, nice amount of tannins. Great to drink now! Suggest Dark Truffle or Dark Solid GEMS.” - Godiva’s chef chocolatiers   

With Godiva Dark Chocolate Raspberry 50% Cacao Tablet   
These two are a natural, Trent observes. 

“I think the wine combines the smell of blackberries and the taste of the dark chocolate, and pairs best with the dark chocolate with raspberry,” she says. “The wine makes the chocolate taste even more like raspberry, whereas plain dark chocolate would be too bland with this.”   

Grand Reserve, Sonoma County, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon 
“Green pepper profile, some oak, higher content of tannins, hints of blackberry, and a slight background of dark chocolate.” - Godiva’s chef chocolatiers     

With Godiva Gems Dark Chocolate Solids   
Trent again points out that the dark chocolate solids bring out the sweetness of the fruit in the Cabernet Sauvignon. In turn, “the Cab makes the chocolate taste richer,” she says. “It really brings out the fruit in the wine. It gives the chocolate a richness that it wouldn’t have on its own.”