Exotic Chocolate Tasting's Founder Featured in Wine Spectator Magazine

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NY's only Chocolate Sommelier, Roxanne Browning shares her unique method on wine and chocolate pairing in the latest issue of Wine Spectator

Chocolate & wine pairings

Chocolate & Wine Pairings created by Roxanne Browning & Owen Dugan from Wine Spectator

I want to take them on a journey...Each element makes its own statement, but they should progress in natural order, too.

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Rules tend to breed exceptions, and matching wine and food is no different. Red goes with meat and white goes with fish, yet Pinot Noir and salmon make a fine pairing. So in setting up a dinner or a tasting, the tendency is to stick with the familiar or rely on educated guesses to refine your target. A recent tasting of wine and chocolate began that way, then quickly turned into a sort of free-for-all, with new bottles being procured and bars being tasted broadly. Ultimately, it delivered a few surprises while reinforcing a few old rules.

The original, on-paper matches were selected by Roxanne Browning, who followed a career on Madison Avenue and a turn as Mayor of Northport on Long Island with starting a company ExoticChocolateTasting.com that runs business socials tasting events for corporations. Browning brought about 10 pairings, then added more wines and chocolates when they seemed appropriate. This method is recommend; it is as if the senses become more acute, and the palate-brain connection more efficient. When setting up, be sure to start with dry bars and wine and move to sweet, sugar is persistent and will make less-sweet bars taste unpleasant.

Also alternate between complex and straightforward wines and chocolates. Palate fatigue sets in if tasters have to wrap their senses around wave after wave of multifaceted flavors. Simpler or more familiar flavors can help orient you. Browning recommends starting with white wine. "Riesling works particularly well; it's a nice entry and very versatile," The Fritz Windisch Riesling was a nice hello; subtle, with a light lemon drop freshness and faint honey notes. The best chocolate with it was Xocolatti in New York. The citrus notes in the lemon and ginger infused dark chocolate and in the Riesling build a bridge, and the prickly effect of the ginger and tangy finish on the wine were refreshing.

A note on sweetness: One firm rule about wine and chocolate, which is that the wine must be sweeter than the chocolate. Dry wine will often turn sour or bitter with sweeter chocolate. In the aforementioned case, though, the wine was not sweeter, but its freshness and brightness made it a good foil to the chocolate. The rule did hold true with a match of Romariz Vintage Port and a dark chocolate Papua New Guinea bar from Dandelion. Browning warns of the bar, from San Francisco bean-to-bar producer. "Be a little patient with this." She's right. It is brooding and smoky, then turns on a dime and brightens. Likewise, the Port is superrich, with stewed red fruit flavors, then a clean finish.

The tasting's takeaway: Open up and try more. Rather than starting with rigid pairings, start wide open to anything that might happen. Set an order, give enough time for each thing you taste, Browning says at least 30 seconds and try every combination. Anyone who matches food and wine knows that for all the knowledge and planning there are those moments when something really surprising happens. Some of the best matches are counterintuitive, and won't happen if without a commit to experimenting. And even if it is not a perfect match, you' re still drinking wine and eating chocolate.

Story is written by Owen Dugan, Features Editor at Wine Spectator Magazine, appeared in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue.

About Exotic Chocolate Tasting
Roxanne Browning, New York's Chocolate Sommelier guide guests on a journey discovering chocolates from the Amazon rainforest to the tropical Islands paired with wine or straight-up. A luscious passport around the world from office, home, or restaurant for business socials and NFP's. This soiree for the senses is entertaining and educational. Sip and savor with associates, clients, or friends in this one-of-a-kind adventure.

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Roxanne Browning

Roxanne Browning
since: 05/2009
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