Trying to make generic pairing recommendations

Clay Gordon
02/08/15 11:23:21
1,680 posts

I received the following Tweet this morning:

Marcus: I am afraid the answer to that question is no, I don't.

One reason I don't keep lists of "good" pairings and make pairing recommendations is that I have learned, from doing pairing events over the past 20 years, that in settings as small as five people that at least one won't like the pairing. Some people just won't like the style of wine or the particular chocolate. Others will have come from a meal or brushed their teeth. If there is a cultural mix, I know that there are cultural differences in flavor preferences. Chances are one of them has had an argument that day with a family member or colleague or boss. Some are wearing heavy perfumes or colognes. All of these things affect the senses of smell and taste, and therefore affect the perception of the pairing. In other word, it doesn't really matter what I like.

When I do my pairing classes, I start from the presumption that at least one of the pairings (I tend to offer about five) is going to completely fail for at least one person in the room. Knowing that, I don't focus on matching a wine and a chocolate and saying that the two of them "go together." Rather, I guide participants through some basics of sensory evaluation, and specifically how combinations of aroma and flavor affect our perception of what is being smelled and tasted.

So, I know that if I make any pairing recommendations to Marcus there is a very good chance that he won't like one of them. And, if Marcus is turning around and sharing these recommendations with anyone then I am virtually guaranteed that someone will not only not like one of them - but they will hate one of them.

On a more practical level, it's also the case that Marcus may not be able to buy either the Port or the chocolate I recommend making any suggestions moot.

On a more generic level, the question is so vague that it is impossible to answer.

Let's start out with porto . By this I am assuming Port wines taken as a category. I know that Port is the oldest protected name in wine and it refers to a type of wine made in Portugal. I know that Ports can be made from a wide variety of grapes (though five varietals predominate), that there are several classes of Port wines, incluing Tawny Ports, Ruby Ports, Late Bottled Vintage, and many others from several distinct regions, and although people think of Ports as being sweet, dessert wines, they were often consumed by the British as aperitfis, not digestifs, and, in fact there are White Ports that are classified as dry and semi-dry (demi-sec). Even so, I headed on over to Wikipedia to refresh my memory .

So the first question we need to hone in on is, “Which Port are we trying to pair with?” And we haven't even thought about vintages yet.

The second question is even more vague. 70% chocolate? That doesn't tell me anything.

Origin? Blend? Made in France? The US? Italy? And why 70%? Seems kind of arbitrary. It rules out the Felchlin Cru Sauvage at 68% and the Elvesia at 74% and everything Bonnat makes and hundreds of other really quite wonderful options.

If I was forced to make recommenations I would say, "Go and purchase things that are easy for everyone to find and are not that expensive and taste everything against everything." Maybe focus on one brand - Taylor? - and get a selection. Then go to a local gourmet store and get a range of bars. Everyone knows Lindt Excellence, so get that - or something like it - at a minimum. And then taste each Port with each chocolate. What you will be surprised to find is how the aromas and flavors change. You will find that one Port tastes great with one chocolate and awful with another. The chocolate you love the most tastes best with the Port you like the least.

And that, my friends, is the fun of pairings. Not doing what you know "works" over and over again, but exploring new tastes, new combinations, on your own mission to taste where no-one has gone before.


clay -

updated by @clay: 04/11/15 22:41:47


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