With Clotilde as the host of this month's installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the pairing naturally had to be wine with chocolate (let's be thankful she didn't choose to go with zucchini...and hope I never propose sardines!).
I had the best of intentions when the theme was announced. I would bake Clotilde's velvety, nearly flourless chocolate cake and host a lovely soirée of trained culinarians and oenophiles, asking each to bring a bottle of some libation they thought would dance perfectly with the complex tastes and aromas of chocolate.
Instead, over the weekend my friends and I made an impromptu escape from chilly San Francisco in search of sun and sand. Clotilde's melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake was sacrificed, replaced by s'mores, tri-tip and corn-on-the-cob grilled over a campfire. Although many bottles of wine made the trip, none were of the sweet dessert style.
Well, here it is, nearly 11 pm on Wednesday in California. In Paris, the sun is rising on a new day and I have yet to post my contribution. Fortunately, I work well under deadline (actually, I don't seem to work at all unless I have a deadline), so I've managed to put together something and with luck I'll get it in just under the wire.
I set out this afternoon (did I mention I'm a procrastinator yet?) across the Bay to Berkeley in search of a bottle of Dolç de l'Obac, a sweet red dessert wine that I had tasted back in July at the Costers del Siurana winery in the Priorat region of Spain. According to my tasting notes, I thought the wine, made mostly of garnacha (grenache in French) would go great with chocolate. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed at The Spanish Table, which had run out of their supply until the holidays.
Because I hadn't recently won the lottery, I decided to forgo the Spanish Table's vast inventory of vintage port dating back to the middle of the last century. Instead, I headed to my favorite importer of French wines, Kermit Lynch. Surely the brilliant wine minds of KLWM would dazzle me with a suggestion for a clever pairing (by this time, it was already 5:00, so they had better be quick about it, too).
Quick they were, but perhaps lacking in innovation, proposing a bottle of Banyuls. "That's nice," I proffered, "but obvious. Don't you have anything more...interesting?" "Sometimes," the wine expert replied, "there's a reason the classics are classic. There is no better partner to chocolate in our store."
They handed me a bottle of 2003 Banyuls from Domaine La Tour Vieille (just $14 for 500 ml!), made by Cantie and Christine Campadieu just across the Spanish border in the French town of Collioure. It turns out that this vin doux naturel is made in nearly the same way and with the same grenache grapes as the Catalan vin dolç that I had originally set out to find.
My next hurdle was to find a rich chocolate cake. I headed back across the Bay and, miraculously, found a parking spot in front of my favorite San Francisco pâtisserie, Tartine. I couldn't decide between the miniature chocolate cakes called friands and the chocolate pot de crème, so I bought them both.
With no longer enough time to make dinner, I picked up N and we headed out to a restaurant. Home by 10 pm, we sat down to dessert and, finally, tasted the goods. The Banyuls did not disappoint. The color is a beautiful garnet and the body is not as syrupy as your typical dessert wine. Though it is fortified with a bit of brandy, the alcohol content, 15.5%, is not much higher than a California sangiovese I had over the weekend.
With one sniff, I instantly understood why it is such a successful accompaniment to chocolate desserts. The aromas of raspberry, coffee, mocha and, yes, cocoa waft out of the glass. Then, the crucial taste and, yes, this does indeed work very nicely. It went especially well with a luscious spoonful of the chocolate pot de crème that had been topped by a juicy raspberry.
Sometimes, there's a reason the classics are classic.