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Chocolates in Bordeaux

Ivo Tennant examines whether the combination of chocolate and wine will grow to be accepted in Bordeaux

There is a memorable scene in From Russia with love in which Bond sees through the SMERSH agent because he orders claret with fish. It might as well have been chocolate rather than Dover sole, such was the belief that there was no marriage between Bordeaux and Bournville. Travel now to Haut-Bailly, to Giscours or Kirwan, and to the chocolatier Mademoiselle de Margaux, and both viewpoints appear dated.

There are wine makers and chefs as well as confectionary makers who are consumed with the notion that some clarets can be enjoyed with chocolate. And not just at the conclusion of lunch. Tanguy Laviale, the 29 year-old chef at Haut-Bailly, believes chocolate can be served for the first course. He has been prepared to spend two weeks concocting the right recipe and it will re-surface intermittently, particularly when American guests appear.

His conclusions? “In young wines, very strong tannin is fighting the chocolate. My choice would be 2003 Haut-Bailly because I can taste cherries, or an old vintage, such as 1998. Milk chocolate is too fat so I have gone for 62 per cent chocolate caramel with sugar, cream, some salt and pine nuts as a bridge. One thing everybody likes, including a lot of Americans whom we host, is chocolate,” he said.

The multi-lingual Nathalie Schyler, of Ch Kirwan, who also comprehends the weakness for chocolate of many of her visitors, believes it actually helps the appreciation of young wines. Her great Kirwan predecessor, Mark, who survived the French Revolution, might not have done had he held such beliefs Two to four years is the ideal age, she feels. Her wines amount to a third of Merlot, which is ideal for chocolatiers, whereas the tougher Cabernet wines only work with dark chocolate, if at all.

“People in France are becoming more ready to discuss matches between wines and fruit and chocolate,” said Schyler. “At Kirwan we use petit verdot grapes which give a taste of spice, vanilla, clove and toffee. All of these go well with the 20062008 vintages. For dinner, we might drink these with a chocolate mousse.”

Not that any kind of chocolate should be made with wine, for the shelf life would be too short. For Bernard Fournie, director general at Mademoiselle de Margaux, Merlot is a natural ally of chocolate made with natural raspberry flavouring. “The good thing is some winemakers have open minds,” he emphasised.

Written by Ivo Tennant

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