Although I have a deep rooted love for all things edible, my true passion typically comes in a 750 milliliter bottle. Part of my reasoning for writing this in the first place, was to document my journey on my way to my ultimate goal... to be the fourth person in the world (and the first woman) to possess both the MW & MS certifications. Please bear in mind that this is going to be a long, complicated journey... emphasis on the word long.
That all being said, I really want to dedicate a reoccurring excerpt sharing some of my favorite wines, interesting facts I've learned though out my studies and quite frankly, anything I happen to come across in the wine world that I deem worth sharing.
I can't think of a better first installment, than to share a little bit about one of my favorite wines... Boekenhoutskloof's The Chocolate Block. For clarification purposes, that's pronounced Boo-ken-hoo-its-kloof (now you can sound all knowledgeable when you order it). It's a South African, Northern Rhone Valley impersonator from Franschhoek with, as the name would imply, rich, dark chocolaty aromas. The syrah-heavy blend also boasts an easy-drinking fruit forwardness that isn't always found in South African wines. On the forefront, there's a deep plum/black currant flavor that trancends effortlessly into a licorice/mint finish. If your a fan of Australian Shiraz, give this a try and I promise you'll be an SA convert in no time.
As for pairing this wine (or any wine for that matter), the first thing to consider is matching the body and texture of the food and the wine. The Chocolate Block has a rich, velvety texture and I think it's important to be sure you're balancing that against the food you're pairing with it.
This is a wine I've been in love with for years and this past Friday, Chef Matthew Maue of Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro in Foxboro, Massachusetts designed us an impeccable meal that truly played off every positive aspect of the wine. If you ever have the opportunity to dine there, take advantage of the chef's tasting menu and let Matt's creativity drive your meal.
Just to share a few highlights from the menu, our first course was a shaved asparagus salad in a caper vinaigrette with filleted anchovies, shaved Cabot 2-year aged cheddar and a perfectly poached egg. The best way to describe the flavor is to imagine a deconstructed Caesar dressing with the creamiest, richest texture possible. The freshness of the asparagus played against the salty, creaminess of the other components, all of which brought out the best possible characteristics in the wine. If you've ever eaten a salted caramel, you can understand how the salt essentially "wakes up your palate" and makes the caramel actually taste sweeter. Use that same logic to pair a crisp, salty salad with a chocolate-aroma laden wine.
My favorite pairing came with our third course, a ricotta gnocchi tossed in a simple New Zealand lamb ragu. The gnocchi were blanched just long enough to bring out the creaminess of the ricotta, but not so long that they started to get a starchy potato texture. This coupled with the richness of the lamb complimented the body of the wine in ways that I can't even describe. It truly was a perfect match.
Hopefully I've enticed you to give The Chocolate Block a try. Sadly, it's not the easiest wine to find but I'm more than happy to share a few places where I know you can get a hold of a bottle. As I mentioned before, Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro in Foxoboro, MA carries it on their wine list. In the Boston area, Martignetti carries it at their retail store. I've also purchased it on line at http://www.southernwines.com/, which is a fantastic site dedicated with Southern Hemisphere wines.