How To Pair Wine with Chocolate!

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Thai chocolate Kad Kokoa has shone a bright light on the Thai cacao industry in recent years. This year, they expanded from stores and a cafe to open the first cacao-based restaurant in Thailand, 31 Degrees by Kad Kokoa, where cacao products are part of almost every item on the menu. We recently paid them a visit to learn more about their recently launched chocolate and wine pairing.

Placing itself somewhere between a laid-back bistro and an innovative eatery, 31 Degrees by Kad Kokoa is a ‘bistronomy’ that serves several sumptuous dishes prepared by the young chefs of Thailand’s Bocuse d’Or. They highlight chocolates that come from four provinces in Thailand: Chantaburi, Chumphon, Prachuap Kirikhan and Chiang Mai.

Over a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate, we recently heading to 31 Degrees by Kad Kokoa to chat with Leo Sebag, partner and COO of Kad Kokoa, to learn about pairing chocolate with wine, as well as his recommendations from the new menu.

Talk to us a little about the chocolate at Kad Kokoa. How does the difference in location affect the taste of each chocolate?

Chocolate is really similar to wine, because it really gets influenced by everything that surrounds it; the weather, the soil, the irrigation, the person, and the environment in which it is harvested. So if I take Chantaburi, for example, it’s a very expressive chocolate. In Chantaburi, you get a lot of irrigation and the weather is quite nice all year long. You also get a lot of fruits such as mangosteen and durian. Therefore, there’s a spring and summer feeling inside the chocolate – very smooth and not bitter at all. For me it’s very symbolic of the region it’s coming from. Chumphon, on the other hand, is where all the robusta coffee grows, so you get a much bolder flavour, and the weather tends to get hotter so you get a more powerful tinge.

What are the key characteristics of Thai chocolate?

The flavour of Thailand origin. The cacao tends to be less bitter than other regions, and quite citrusy and fruity, so I guess it’s due to the fact that there’re a lot of irrigation in Thailand. There’s crazy rain and sea everywhere, so you get trees that have a lot of nutrients. The pods and beans are smaller as well, so all of these lead to less bitterness.

How are you pairing chocolate and wine at 31 Degrees by Kad Kokoa?

It is actually very hard to match, because they’re so similar – very powerful taste, and easily overwhelming. My process is simply to find chocolates and wines that compliment each other. Usually, if the wine is very powerful, you want the chocolate to go in the opposite direction; sweeter not bitter. The second criteria is the level of sweetness. You want an overall level of sweetness that is mild, so you get much more flavour. Thereby, if you have sweeter wine, you pair with a more bitter chocolate. Then when you have a good pairing, the idea is to try to make flavours not blend into each other, meaning that if the wine is quite fruit-forward, usually I’ll try to bring a little bit of spice to the chocolate.

What are your recommended chocolate and wine pairings?

As far as I’ve explored the area, my favourite is dark chocolate and red wine. Red wine is surprisingly more forgiving than white wine, for it allows you to blend all the flavours together as long as the chocolate is not too bitter. In dark chocolates, there is more cacao and natural fat, and hence more flavour. My favourite ones are the Pepper and the Shiso Seed, because one is nutty and quite easy to pair, while the other one is powerfully spiced, so I usually complete and clean the palate with the wine first. We also have Coconut Milk Chocolate that brings quite a nice note and sweetness. You can start with the Shiso Seed to get the crispiness and the nutty flavour and cut it with the Coconut Milk.

What else do you recommend customers try at 31 Degrees by Kad Kokoa?

Definitely try the food, because the main focus here is on the food. We have a wonderful team from Bocuse d’Or in the kitchen, made up of young people that are super innovative and push their limits. On that note, the chocolate here is never the gimmick; it belongs here and we never force it onto the dishes. My favourite dish is the Oven-Roasted Free Range Baby Chicken with Chumphon Chocolate Juice.