Pairing Grappa and Chocolate
A grappa and chocolate pairing are pure pleasure with each sip.
Few combinations are as pleasant and indulgent as grappa and chocolate. And even fewer still, are able to continuously entice you to sip and nibble. That is because the soft, ethereal alcohol in the grappa cleans the palate after each bite of rich, velvety chocolate, leaving you wanting more.
First off, not all grappa and chocolate are made equal. Nor do they all pair well together. Grappa that tends to veer towards sweetness, like those made from Moscato, should be paired with chocolate that isn’t too bitter. However, with a really good dark chocolate, a grappa that is drier, like a Barbaresco, Barolo or Barbera, elevate the intensity. Grappa with a unique flavouring should be paired with flavoured bars or pralines, just make sure they are compatible flavours so as not to compete in the mouth. Fortunately, no grappa is ever too sweet for chocolate!
A FEW TECHNIQUES
Pairing liquors and chocolate are a matter of time. Just as in a story, each pairing has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Beginning: take a little sip of the grappa, sniff it a few times, let it “grip” onto your palate. Middle: take a bite of chocolate and let it melt in your mouth as its flavours unfold. End: clean your palate with another sip, so your mouth is ready again for chocolate.
A high-quality dark chocolate that is robust, with little fat, and a pronounced taste of toasted cocoa pairs perfectly with Grappa di Nebbiolo. The sharp and savoury notes in each will compliment rather than contrast for a warm and elegant tasting experience.
To note: “smoked” dark chocolate
Smoked dark chocolate is having a bit of a renaissance thanks to innovative pastry chefs. It has a robust taste that is sometimes enhanced with salt or salted caramel. It can be paired with something complimentary, like 20-year Grappa di Barolo which won’t compete with the chocolate, or with something contrasting, such as the delicate Grappa di Moscato Vendemmia Tardiva 2007, which has citrus and dried fruit notes that will play with the smokiness.
If you opt for a milk chocolate, make sure it is handcrafted. A lot of the mass-produced stuff plays up the sugary and fat flavours which will just taint the flavour of any grappa and be like mud in your mouth. Try an aromatic and easy to drink grappa, like Moscato, or a more citrusy, floral grappa like Brachetto to balance the sweetness of the chocolate.
White chocolate is actually a misnomer; it is not really chocolate. It is made from cocoa butter, milk, and sugar which means it has a thick and pasty texture that coats your mouth. Cut through this with a grappa that will contrast the fat and refresh the mouth. We recommend the Grappa Dedicata al Padre, made from the pomace of Roero red. It has the highest alcohol level in the range and will incorporate a crisp, yet warm, structure to the tasting experience.
We won’t hide it, we are crazy for Modica chocolate. The particular method to make it, that can only be done by skillful hands, makes it crumbly and fragrant. The sugars don’t completely melt into the fat, leaving a texture unlike anything else you can imagine. It is the world’s oldest chocolate, invented many moons before industrial machinery. The king of Modica chocolate is the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, made in Sicily in the oldest chocolate shop on the island. A bite of their Vanilla or Cinnamon bar and you’ll never want another chocolate again. We recommend, in fact, we insist, you pair it with Grappa di Barolo, or even better, one that was aged in oak, which will complement the chocolate in a profound way.
A pairing of dreams!