“You’ll be able to tantalize your tastebuds,” explains Bethany, our tasting guide. “The fine chocolates and local wines will interact to enhance the tasting experience.”
While creamy cheeses and savory meals are often paired with wine, Hahndorf Hill Winery in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills takes an innovative approach by pairing fine chocolates with the area’s world-class vinos. There’s a reason chocolate is so heavenly. In mythology, wine and decadent delights are associated with the Greek god Dionysus, while the botanical name for the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao, which means “food of the gods.” Through their ChocoVino experience, they’re introducing visitors to this worthwhile combination, and I’m lucky enough to take part in it.
Apparently, I’ve been tasting chocolate wrong my entire life. Who knew unwrapping the bar at warp speed and scarfing it like my life depended on it was not the proper way? Luckily, Bethany is here to help me change my ways and learn to really enjoy the smooth layers of the divine treat.
She places a treasure box in front of me. It contains a cacao bean, apple slices, a piece of Haigh’s Chocolate and a piece of Daintree Estates.”This is your chocolate box to help you experience the chocolate.”
I taste the cacao bean, savoring its familiar yet bitter flavor, before cleansing my palate with the apple. My excitement mounts as I pick up the Haigh’s, South Australia’s most iconic chocolate. We’ll now be experiencing the treat with all five senses. Bethany instructs the group to first look at the chocolate, noticing its rich and even sheen. Next we touch the chocolate, feeling how silky, cool and dry it is.
“Now break the chocolate,” Bethany advises. “Good chocolate will have a distinct snap that should sound like a child’s laughter.”
Once it’s in half, the freshly cracked edges deliver an enticing smell that make my mouth and mind eager for the next step, which is to taste. I am careful not to shove the square in my mouth, but to let it melt on my tongue, the layers unfolding to reveal the inner flavors one-by-one.
I’m speechless. The small square has so much complexity to it. It feels like reading an entire novel in just a few delicious moments. It’s official; I really have never tasted chocolate before. Once I do the steps over again for the Daintree Estates Mill bar, my tastebuds are dancing. While the Haigh’s is smooth and creamy, the Daintree is exotic with a fruit tang.
Chocolate & Wine: A Match Made In Heaven
It’s really no surprise chocolate and wine pair well together. While there is a vast terminology used when wine tasting, this vocabulary is also used by the world’s top chocolatiers to discuss fine chocolate. For example, these epicurious artists emphasize facets like regionality, terroir and vintage when creating delicious high-quality chocolate.
For the ChocoVino experience, the pairings are selected based on both the wine and chocolate’s terroir, focusing mainly on single-origin bars that reflect the flavor of the area it comes from.
“It’s the same with wine, so when you match a single-origin chocolate to a regional wine, you get to explore the concept of terroir in a unique way while taking your tastebuds on a whole new adventure,” explains Melita Trimboli, a ChocoVino coordinator.
While there are many selections on the experience menu, my group chooses the “Discover Chocolate + Wine,” which includes a Cape Grim water as a palate cleanser, HHE White Mischief 2010 and a HHW Shiraz, Amedei “Chuai’ from Venezuela, Pralus ‘Papouasie’ from Papua New Guinea and Pralus ‘Madagascar’ from Africa.
While each chocolate is served pre-paired with a designated wine, Bethany encourages us to mix and match. Because everyone’s tastebuds are different, another unique combination could be a more enjoyable discovery.
Hahndorf Hill wines are representative of their location in the Adelaide Hills, reflecting a mix of blue slate, quartz and ironstone as well as fastidious management over the yield. While the White Mischief is a blend of free-run Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio offering a zesty complexity and seamless palate, the Pralus ‘Madagascar’ has a fresh nose with a slight minty yet fruity flavor.
The best pairing for me, however, is the Amedai ‘Chuao’ with the HHW Shiraz 2007. The chocolate is a blend of mainly Criollo beans with some Forastero from the Chuao region in Venezuela with flavors of red berries, prunes and molasses, while the cool-climate Shiraz is smooth with berry fruits and spices. The flavors linger with a tantalizing splendor even after I’ve finished.
Leaving Hahndorf Hill Winery, a feeling of nostalgia envelops me. They say chocolate brings many people back to their childhood, and for me this is true. I picture myself as a toddler, hunting for eggs on Easter, trick-or-treating with my dad and baking Christmas cookies with my mom. I envision frosting cupcakes for my kindergarten birthday party and being rewarded with mini-Snickers bars for an A+ on a math test.
There’s one realization, however, that I can’t get out of my head. The next time I indulge in some chocolate, I’m positive my mind will be wandering here, back to Hahndorf Hill Winery.
ChocoVino tastings take place daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For a chocolate-only experience prices start at $10 per person. For a chocolate and wine pairing experience, prices start at $20 per person.[Images via Hahndorf Hill Winery]
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