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A Guide to Banyuls and Dark Chocolate, a Match Made in Heaven!

French Wine Explorers | Friday, Apr 2nd 2010
Banyuls and Chocolate Pairings

Before the Easter holidays, we had the pleasure of hosting good friends at our house for dinner and to reminisce about our wine tour in France, and we ended our meal with homework. I had just received a sample box of Michel Cluizel Chocolates and decided to put them to the taste test to see which we preferred.

Family owned since 1948, Michel Cluizel Company has continued the family tradition of exceptional chocolates. It is one of the rare “Cacaofeviers” (transformer of cocoa beans into exceptional chocolate) in the world. Through its direct collaboration with the finest planters since 1997, it has adopted a specific approach, developing durable relations with renowned planters in a spirit of sustainable planters. The result? Distinguished, aromatic chocolates with a full and persistent taste. All Michel Cluizel Chocolates, which are integrally manufactured in Normandy, meet the “Noble Ingredients” Quality Commitment that ensures exceptional chocolates.

The collection we sampled was the 1ers Crus de Plantation, small squares of single-origin chocolates where the cocoa used is from a single plantation. The beans are of outstanding quality, and therefore produce a premium product. We sampled chocolates with beans sourced from various locales, including Venezuela, Madagascar, San Domingo, Sao Tome (off of Africa in the Atlantic)and New Guinea.

As with wine, the best chocolate reigns from the best terroir and our taste tests did not disappoint. We favored the dark chocolate from Venezuela and Sao Tome, both with about 66% cacao, and both displaying tonalities of exotic wood and a wonderful length in the palate. This is the perfect type of chocolate to pair with Banyuls. This dessert wine is made from the red grape, Grenache, in the Roussillon region of southern France. Here the hardy Grenache vines struggle in the dry poor soil. What this yields is a sweet wine that is a classic companion to semi-sweet or dark chocolate. While rich and full-bodied, it is less syrupy than other dessert wines, with notes of berries and a touch of spice. Chill Banyuls to around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once uncorked, let the wine “breathe” for an hour before you serve it.

So the next time you are sourcing chocolate and wine as an after dinner treat or hostess gift, think single plantation, high quality chocolate such as Michel Cluizel, and pair with an equally mesmerizing partner such as Banyuls.

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