For this entry I have been asked to create a chocolate dessert, pair it with a wine and conduct a sensory analysis of the pairing. For this I have chosen my favourite dessert, chocolate fondant and paired it with a red wine. I have twisted it with dark chocolate because I’m not mad about sweet desserts and feel the same about sweet wines. I also wanted something a little more bitter and with less fat to compliment the wine I have chosen; adding raspberries and blueberries to balance the richness of the dessert and bring it together with the fruit profile of the Zinfandel I have settled on. I have invited some friends over to help me out with an evaluation of the pairing. My objective is to conduct an analysis of their sensory response which I will chart to draw the parallels and/or divergences.
First I should tell you that I have given a great deal of thought to both the physical and chemical aspects of all the ingredients, particularly as I am pushing the boat out and taking the hotly contested path of serving a chocolate dessert with a red (not sweet or fortified) wine.
Risky as it is, I’m hoping that by the time you’ve finished reading this you’ll have faith and give it a go yourself. I’m also hoping my friends will still be my friends, my fondants look like fondants and not what they tend to look like when they go wrong, and that my investment of time and money pays off.
Wine and chocolate are not as different as you may think. Their histories are centuries old, they have both been considered toxic and sinful aphrodisiacs, and both have evolved to become one of the great pleasures of life and even more recently espoused for their antioxidant virtues.
Chemically, both chocolate and wine are produced from fermented fruit using the same type of yeast and both contain tannins . They are also both products of terroir and share many aromas and compounds. This is the first basis of my pairing, for the red wine I have picked is a Murphy-Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel (2013), which boasts rich flavours of blackberry jam and raspberry, soft tannins and a “fruit-sweet finish”. It comes from Sonoma County in California, a region renowned for this variety .
I have also called on the advice of a few chefs and sommeliers. Tonia Wilson advocates pairing like-for-like, full-bodied wine with strong chocolate and talks of savouring a “sinfully bittersweet chocolate with a Zinfandel” . A few other pathfinders agree .
You should know that I’m not going for refreshment. The wine I’m serving is not intended as a “supporting actor”, a “pleasant but contrasting refreshing beverage” to enjoy with the dessert . I am also not looking for boring neutrality – much as you would expect from a pinot noir at a buffet. Albeit my favourite wine varietal, it is not known as the tart of all wines, happy to pair with anything, for nothing . Nope, if I’m going out on the ledge I’m going to do it properly and have a go at full-blown synergy, hoping the gastronomic experience of the pairing will be superior to the sum of its parts . This is, after all, the holy grail of sommeliers and an experience I have only had a few times in my life. Not surprising, given food and wine pairing is considered an art, a science and is at the same time highly subjective. Never mind that what we taste in a wine, in food and ultimately in their pairings, are products of nature, human intervention and perception.
There are many schools of thought on food and wine pairing. Some advocate consideration for the physical aspects of food and wine including colour, shape, size, texture; chemical aspects including nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, vitamins and minerals; and sensory aspects such as colour, shape, smell, taste, and mouth-feel or texture .
Others claim that the sensory aspects of food and wine should be evaluated in terms of sight, smell, touch, taste and even hearing  . Tasting and descriptive methodologies are just as diverse, including such tools as aroma wheels, “vinometers” and the systematic approaches of England and Sweden .
It is clear that there is no silver bullet for food and wine pairing and the best I can do is find a method I most agree with. Wanting as scientific a base for achieving synergy as I can find, I settle on Harrington’s hierarchical perspective which comprises three elements .
The first element considers the the sensory perception of the tongue including sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and acidity. The correlating wine terms would include dryness, level of effervescence and acidity .
The second element considered is texture, generally referred to as the body, structure or weight of a wine from light, thin, medium-bodied to full bodied or heavy . The same could be applied to food and in traditional wine and food pairings already has, hence red meat with red wines and white wines with poultry or seafood . In wines texture or body is referred to in terms of tannin, alcohol level and oak. Food characteristics can be described in terms of fattiness, the cooking method applied and/or the overall body .
The final element is flavour, but flavour as it relates to our perception of specific characters inherent in the food and wine, which come from sensations of both aroma and taste . Some of the most common flavour characteristics are nutty, fruity, spicy, smoky and meaty . Consideration is also given to the intensity and persistence of the flavours .
For my pairing analysis, I use the attributes of the elements I consider most common to the wine and the dessert as the primary characteristics on a star diagram. I provide each of my friends with two charts, one for the wine and one for the dessert. I ask them to rate from 1 to 5 on the chart the degree of each attribute they believe applies to each, using descriptive category scaling; 1 being the least; 5 being the most.
For the dessert I use the characteristics of sweet, bitter, tart, rich, fruity and persistence. For the wine I use the characteristics of sweet, bitter, acidic, weight/body, fruity and persistence.
The chart below shows the average of all the rankings for each attribute for the wine and the dessert, the wine depicted by the red line, the dessert with the brown line.
I could not have been happier with the outcome. Everyone commented on how long the dessert lingered in the mouth. They were quite surprised by how the wine morphed into and elevated the lingering remnants of the chocolate in the mouth. The smooth and silky texture of the fondats balanced beautifully with the wine and the raspberries harmonised with the aroma and tartness of the Zinfandel. I am delighted with the results and the only thing left to do is share the joy.
Dark Chocolate Fondant with Raspberries and Blueberries
6 x 150ml pudding moulds or darioles
180g unsalted butter
180g Valronha 66% chocolate
3 whole eggs + 3 egg yolks
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
120g caster sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Grease the darioles well with butter. Place the moulds in the fridge and grease again about ten minutes later. Dust each mould with cocoa powder and return to the fridge.
Chocolate does not conduct heat very well, so break into pieces and melt it with the butter in a bowl placed over a very gently simmering pan of water . Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl and be extra careful not to get any water in the chocolate. This is because chocolate is extremely dry with millions of particles of sugar and cocoa prone to sticking together and separating from the cocoa butter if a small amount of water is added . Stir the mixture occasionally until properly melted and mixed and set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs lightly, then add the sifted sugar, flour and cocoa powder. Be careful not to use Dutch (alkalised) cocoa powder, as natural cocoa powder has roasty, caramel-like molecules and astringent phenolics that add to the flavour .
Gently fold in the melted butter and chocolate and mix until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the moulds to about ¾ full and chill in the fridge for about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C and when ready to bake take the moulds out of the fridge, tap each one lightly on the bench-top to release any air bubbles and place on a tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a crust has formed on the tops and the sides are just starting to come away from the moulds. The centres should still be a little wobbly.
Turn out onto serving plates using a palate knife if necessary. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with a quenelle of crème fraiche and fresh blueberries and raspberries.
I highly recommend you use the same chocolate I have in this recipe, not only because it really is delicious, but because chocolate differs vastly depending on the content of syrup-producing sugar and drying cocoa particles .
My pairing was inspired by the fondant tart and wine list at Bacchus restaurant in Brisbane. This is also where I had one of my three outstanding synergistic food and wine pairings, not surprising given the head sommelier, Andrew Giblin, has won multiple awards for his wine list which at 56 pages long is one of the most extensive I have ever seen. I have included the links to their menu and wine list in the reference section below  .
 Cases, Y 2016, Wine and Chocolate Pairing – Is it Possible?, The Wine Gallery, viewed 20 May 2017, < http://blog.thewinegallery.com.au/wine-and-chocolate-pairings/>.
 Sonoma County (n.d.), The History of Zinfandel, viewed 20 May 2017, < http://www.sonomacounty.com/articles/history-zinfandel>.
 Wilson, T 2007, ‘Sip and Savour: The Science and Art Behind the Perfect Wine and Chocolate Pairing’, Canada NewsWire, 12 May, p. 1.
 Dornenburg, A 2006, ‘Food and Beverage Pairing 101’, in Dornenburg, A & Karen, P (eds.), What to drink with what you eat; the definitive guide to pairing food with wine, beer, spirits, coffee, tea – even water – based on expert advice from America’s best Sommeliers, Bulfinch Press.
 Harrington, R 2005, ‘The Wine and Food Pairing Process: Using Culinary and Sensory Perspectives’, Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 101-112.
 Platter, J 2015, My Kind of Wine, PawPaw Publishing, South Africa.
 Little, M 2017, Contemporary aspects of food and wine systems Topic 5, Blackboard Notes, Southern Cross University, viewed 13 March 2017, <HOS03421 Blackboard site>.
 Stone, H & Sidel, J 2004, Sensory evaluation practices, Elsevier Academic Press, London.
 Shepherd, GM 2011, Neurogastronomy, Columbia University Press, New York.
 Herdenstam, APF, Hammaren, M, Ahlstrom, R & Wiktorsson, P 2009, ‘The Professional Language of Wine: Perception, Training and Dialogue’, Journal of Wine Research, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 53-84.
 Koone, R, Harrington, R, Gozzi, M & McCarthy, M 2014, ‘The role of acidity, sweetness, tannin and consumer knowledge on wine and food match perceptions’, Journal of Wine Research, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 158-174.
 McGee, H 2004, On Food & Cooking: an encyclopedia of kitchen science, history and culture, Hodder & Stoughton, Great Britain.