Easter's coming up and that means even more CHOCOLATE! It's tough avoiding the temptation of sinking our teeth into giant chocolate eggs and tempting truffles at this time of year! … and why should we? There are so many choices and loads of recipes for cakes and puddings based on the humble cocoa bean and a bit (well, a lot) of sugar!
🍫 Yet, how many of us think about the drink to go with our tantalising treat? Sure, most of us are probably used to enjoying our favourite choccie bars and Easter eggs without too many deliberations 💡, but even that experience can be elevated to a different level with the right drink.
🍷 Chocolate, because it is often so intense, usually pairs well with strongly-flavoured wines, like an aged Tawny Port or Orange Muscat. A light chocolate mousse, in contrast, will find a great match in a light wine style, for example an Asti Spumante. So, the general advice given to matching wine with food based on strength of flavour and body or weight, applies equally to wine and chocolate.
🍺 The same is true for beer. A cool, pale lager might quench your thirst and freshen up your taste buds, but it's unlikely to complement the intense, creamy mouthful of a milk chocolate truffle. For that, you need something richer like a milk stout, although some lagers with more obvious hop and malt notes can work, depending on the flavours in the chocolate. Dark chocolate and fruity or sour beers often fit together beautifully, the contrast of bitter, sweet and sour a joy! Then throw white chocolate into the mix and there are even more variables and combinations to consider (both lighter, sweet and sour fruit beers or rich porters can be good choices here too).
… and talking of decadent mouthfuls, the latest collection from Norfolk's Booja-Booja poses a very welcome challenge! The Easter Edition is a wonderful gift or special treat for Easter. It features 16 multi award-winning Booja-Booja vegan truffles in a box designed and illustrated by local artist Pippa Mulvany.
Rather than the conventional Easter bunny imagery, Pippa's illustration highlights wild hares, which are a more traditional folk symbol of Easter. A golden dove, lit by the sun at the centre of the watercolour sky, symbolises the hope of the Easter story.
The visual approach of the Easter Edition box is "typically unconventional", explained Booja-Booja Managing Director Matt Gilding. "For more than twenty years we have done things our own, unique Booja-Booja way: from our commitment to being completely vegan and our organic and gluten-free ingredients, to our distinctive take on packaging design. The Easter Edition is such a striking and beautiful box and very us! We're delighted that it was a created by local artist Pippa Mulvany, who has done beautiful illustrations for us over many years. It's already grabbing attention from our regular fans and new customers."
The Easter Edition features five different Booja-Booja truffle flavours. All of them have won awards for taste and quality. Hazelnut Crunch and Almond Salted Caramel are the company's most popular truffle varieties. They are joined by the sophisticated coffee sensations of Around Midnight Espresso, the tangy fruitiness of Rhubarb and Vanilla Fool, and the satisfying kick of Stem Ginger. Mmm! 😋
Every single truffle is created from simple, carefully chosen, vegan and organic ingredients. They are all completely free of dairy, gluten, soya and palm oil. The 184g Easter Edition box retails from £9.99 and is available at selected local stores and online, including through the company's own Amazon store.
So, are you feeling hungry yet … and thirsty? What about pairing these decadent truffles with wine or beer? Well, here are a few options that might work for you. I've tried to do a bit of research here to help … 🤤
Along with Rivesaltes and Banyuls, Maury is an appellation from the Roussillon region of south-west France, famous for vins doux naturels. It offers one of the classic wine pairings for chocolate. Using a minimum of 75% Grenache Noir, fermentation is stopped by adding grape spirit, producing sweet, fortified red wines, a little similar in style to young ruby port.
Although Maury is known more for its sweet wines, since 2011, there is also a Maury Sec appellation. However, for these luxuriously dairy-free yet 'creamy' chocolate truffles, a vin doux naturel is the perfect match.
Mas Amiel is renowned for producing high quality sweet Maury and the 2016 Vintage expression works beautifully here. Full of berry and cherry character with prunes and chocolate notes too plus a tannic edge, it will complement and cut through the sweet richness of chocolate truffles.
This wine is available from Lea & Sandeman for £15.50 per 37.5cl half-bottle, or £13.95 in a case of 12.
Another classic pairing is port and chocolate, but which style of port to choose? Individually, chocolate and chilled Tawny Port are two of the great joys in life! Together … Mmm! 😋
The Tawny style is great with both milk and dark chocolate truffles, particularly when matching with flavourings of dried fruit, caramel or nuts. So, in Booja-Booja's Easter selection, the Almond Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Crunch truffles offer a great excuse for doing a little food and wine testing! Kopke 20-year old Tawny Port would be a great choice, delivering rich, concentrated flavours and a smooth texture. It's available from selected independent retailers, including Hennings Wine and Field & Fawcett for around £40 a bottle.
… but if you fancy bubbles 🍾 with your truffles, then good quality Prosecco can make a great pairing. The refreshing acidity, salinity, mineral, floral and fruity qualities of Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG in particular can balance the richness and bittersweet flavours of dark chocolate, while also delivering a delicious burst of refreshment to cleanse your palate.
I'll admit it - I love Lambics, Oude Gueuzes, Krieks and other funky, sour beer styles at any time of year! So I guess I'm being a bit biased here, but a sour cherry hit really does hit the spot for me with velvety smooth, decadent chocs. While so many specialist shops are closed and not everyone wanting to place an online order for a case of beer, I wanted to suggest some beers widely available in UK supermarkets.
So, while there are other, more complex examples around, here are a couple of easy-drinking options that won't break the bank!
Image credit: Brouwerij Boon
Brouwerij Boon is an award-winning Belgian brewery, known around the world for its lambics. Wild yeasts, spontaneous fermentation in giant, open oak barrels and the addition of 25% fresh cherries result in a sweet and sour, light (only 4% ABV), refreshing Kriek that will go well with dark chocolate in particular.
🍒 A 250ml bottle of Boon Kriek Lambic Cherry Beer costs £1.80 at Tesco.
Image credit: Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck
Another option, if you prefer a stronger style at 5.8% ABV, is Bacchus Kriek from family-owned Belgian brewery Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck. The beer is based on a Oud Bruin, or Flemish Old Brown, to which 15% cherries are added. Its deliciously zesty, thirst-quenching style will also be a good match for dark chocolate.
🍒 A 375ml bottle of Bacchus Kriek costs £2.50 at Tesco.
Both these beers should be served chilled at 5-8°C.
However, if you prefer a richer, darker beer to go with your chocolates, then the Brewers Association recommends an Abbey Dubbel with milk chocolate or an Imperial Stout with dark chocolate truffles. Otherwise, for Booja-Booja's Around Midnight Espresso, a stout or porter with coffee ☕ and chocolate 🍫 flavours would work really well. Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland Chocolate Porter (6.8% ABV), available from Morrisons for £2.45 a bottle, is a delicious choice.
Black Sheep Milk Stout (4.4% ABV), with its silky smooth touch of vanilla sweetness 🍦 and Wold Top Marmalade Porter (5.0% ABV), with its bitter orange edge 🟠 will also complement rich dark chocolates. You can find them at selected Morrisons stores and online from the supermarket's website shop, for £1.85 and £1.50, respectively. These beers should be served ideally at 10-13°C to bring out the flavours, while also staying refreshing.
Alternatively, if you're in a spirit mood - and I don't mean you're about to start a séance! - then the diverse styles of whisky 🥃 will make a great pairing with many different types of chocolate, particularly those containing nuts. However, Cognac may be a better option with more floral or delicately flavoured nutty truffles. An aged rum is delicious with rich milk chocolates or truffles filled with fruit and spices, while Mezcal or Tequila can go really well with fruity chocolates too. Of course, if you really want that cocoa bean hit, then you can always opt for a chocolate liqueur or cocktail instead!
There are many other wines, beers, spirits or liqueurs that will pair beautifully with different types of chocolate, from Riesling to Rioja, Pilsner to Porter and Brandy to Benedictine. It's just another reason to combine things we love and there's nothing wrong with that, is there?! 😛