Thank you to everyone that took the time to come out for the Wine and Chocolate pairing event at NiLu! As well as a big thank you to Daniel Maloney, ⅓ of the founders and brothers of Sol Cocoa, and Charles Springfield, sommelier and author of The Less is More Approaching to Wine. If you didn’t get to make it, here is what we learned and what you missed!
We started off with a little insight on the history behind the South Bronx-based chocolate company. Born into a Trinidadian agricultural island way of life, it seems the Maloney brothers were destined to create Sol Cacao. Their great grandmother grew sugarcane and their great grandfather grew cacao, the only two ingredients in their bars—cane sugar and cacao beans. They craft single origin chocolate bars from Madagascar, Peru, and Ecuador, all with a symbol of the country on the packaging like the Peruvian national bird. Daniel broke down the flavor profiles of each of the bars Sol Cacao currently offers. Their first bar Madagascar, or “the red wine bar” as Daniel calls it, is fruity with raisin and raspberry notes. Ecuador is more of an earthy and smoky taste, with chocolatey notes that most people are familiar with while Peru is a balanced combination of the two. One of the company’s goals is to celebrate how chocolate could be. They make their chocolate straight from the unroasted beans grown in small, organic, fairtrade farms. Their chocolate has a higher percentage of dark chocolate, the Madagascar bar at 72%, meaning it is healthier with a lower glycemic index than the milk chocolates popular in America.
Although he is often surrounded by all things cacao, Daniel does not tire of eating chocolate because of the numerous flavors found in the cacao bean. When eating chocolate, he recommended nibbling it and letting it melt to taste the full flavors. His favorite bar is always changing and depends on the mood he is in. On pairing chocolate with wine, Daniel sees the similarities between the two. They are both fermented like cheese, yogurt, and beer. He believes you cannot go wrong with a semi sweet wine to pair with the chocolates, and it is even a great date idea to start a cheese board with wine and making your way through the chocolates to find what you like.
Charles Springfield is a certified sommelier and wine educator from Harlem. His mother and grandmother who is from New York, are who he attributes his appreciation for wine to. He grew up in the 70’s when it was not taboo to have beer or wine during family gatherings. His interest in wine continued to grow before moving to New York when the wine education started 10 years ago.
His book, The Less is More Approach to Wine, came out a few months ago in June, and aims to take the mystery out of wine. Charles teaches wine classes and this book was made to give that same education to everyone that the classes aren't available to. He had the idea for the book about four years ago but after spending time learning about the history, farming, and production aspects of wine, he was ready to carve out nine months to work on putting this book together. The book is conversational but, can also be used as an index, turn to whichever section of the book you would like as you need it. From how to shop and tasting to the history of wine, there is something for everyone to learn from in this book. He takes a comfortable and humorous approach to learning about wine, a subject that can get heavy and extensive.
His main point of the night was finding balance. This is his first tip when it comes to food pairings. Notable combinations of french fries and sparkling wine or champagne and chicken lo mein were favorites of Charles because of the balance between greasy and high acidity. For chocolate, he finds that bitter wine and bitter chocolate can clash for some so, he recommends a semi sweet wine or a desert wine to off set that bitter taste. With the semi sweet cabernet and rich ruby port wine from Portugal that he brought, he urged guests to experiment with the Sol Cacao offered. It is all about taste, even if you’ve started off drinking Mad Dog 2020 and wine coolers, there is always room to figure out your “personal palate” as Charles talks about in his book.
When thinking of wine and craft chocolate a level of prestige and complexity are associated with enjoying these items. After listening to Daniel and Charles talk with each group that walked through the door, we have come to the conclusion that indulging in wine or chocolate is what you make of it. You are not a snob for enjoying single origin craft chocolate bars, and all the wine critics in the world can recommend a port wine—but you don’t have to drink it if thats not what you are into. Our featured guests of the Wine and Chocolate Pairing event have encouraged us to find our own personal flavor palate, and it doesn't hurt to figure it out with the help of quality information and quality chocolate.