In keeping to my theory that those who spend time thinking about the aromas and flavors in their wine notice more about what is on their dinner plate, and, in taking it a step further, are blissfully aware of the trees and sky during a drive…to a wine bar or favorite restaurant.
So, it thrilled me when Wine Spectator magazine ran the story, “How to Taste Chocolate”, and supplied the handy Tasting Sheet to host a tasting, both written by Owen Dugan.
(For the article: You must login as a member but you can get the tasting sheet in a PDF. Scroll down until you see the chocolate header: www.winespectator.com/123112)
I read the one-page article with great interest as I had a special dinner coming up, my guests were chocolate fans, and this would save the pesky, “What to make for dessert” dilemma.
I learned from Dugan that I would need a variety of manufacturers, I would have to place the chocolate facedown (as name recognition – just like when tasting wine – creates a bias), glossy is more refined than dull, and we would need to slowly move the chocolate around in our mouths to detect the primary flavors.
For my tasting I cut off the section of the cardboard wrapper, which listed the cocoa percentage, and taped each underneath the corresponding serving plate. All could see that we were going dark to light, but there were some surprises (ingredients) along the way.
Dugan suggested going from light to dark, but as I wanted my guests to taste the gradual difference, from bitter to sweet, I did it opposite. Everyone enjoyed the chocolate more and more as it progressively grew less bitter as we worked our way to less cocoa and more milk.
Below is a collective of what we found during our blind tasting (Note: I used Appearance over Dugan’s “Look” and “Bite”, Flavor over “Savor.”)
Bar #1 – Appearance/First Bite: Matte, dark, clean, crisp, smooth and dry.
Flavor: Earthy, orange, coffee, leather, mushroom, smoke, tea with a short, bitter finish.
Comment: “A lot like a woman on a Sunday morning: cold and bitter!”
Bar #2 – Appearance/First Bite: More matte than glossy, dark, clean, crisp, smooth and dry.
Flavor: Earthy, leather, tea, smoke, nuts, coffee with a short to medium, bitter finish.
Comment: “The tea flavor reminds me of an Earl Gray.”
Bar #3 – Appearance/First Bite: Medium matte/gloss, medium dark and mottled, with a medium dull, grainy first impression.
Flavor: Stewed fruit, floral, savory spice, molasses, cinnamon, sweet herbs, nuts, vanilla and coffee, medium length.
Bar #4 – Appearance/First Bite: Glossy, dark, clean with a bite that was crisp, smooth and melty.
Flavor: Floral, plum, earthy, tea, molasses, orange, caramel, fruity and vanilla leading to a longer, sweeter finish.
Comment: “The best yet” and “Hot cocoa.”
Bar #5 – Appearance/First Bite: Medium matte/gloss, medium color, mottled with a crisp, smooth and grainy first taste.
Flavor: Floral, fruity, flowers, stewed fruit, pineapple, plum, citrus, raspberry, red berries, vanilla, savory spice and milk leading to a long sweet finish.
Comment: “My fave.”
Bar #6 – Appearance/First Bite: matte, light, clean, dull, smooth and melty.
Flavor: Earthy, tea, molasses, fruity, caramel, vanilla, nuts, coffee and very milky.
What was revealed
Bar #1 was Lindt Excellence, 90% Cocoa
Bar #2 was Godiva Santo Domingo, 85% Cacao*
Bar #3 was Godiva Dark Chocolate Almond, 72% Cacao
Bar #4 was Perugina Luisa, 51% Cacao
Bar #5 was Lindt Excellence, Black Currant Dark, 49% Cacao
Bar #6 was Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk, 32% Cacao
*Cacao and Cocoa are the same thing.
Can you say fun? Something new? Light dessert? Inexpensive? Or all four? Besides all that, the big thing we learned was that the black currant in Bar #5, was a surprise over the others. Not due to the sudden fruit, but to how we described it. Much like describing wine made from grapes, right?
And, as predicted, halfway through, at bar #3, I had more fans of the dark. My conclusion was that, just like in a wine tasting, appreciation grows as you taste and learn.