It might be a strange-sounding combination at first. But, whereas a bar of chocolate would play havoc with a wine drinker’s palate, flavoured truffles and pralines can make for a very nice accompaniment to the divine nectar.
The handcrafted chocolates from the Malta Chocolate Factory in Bugibba, for example, are excellent fare. Their little bonbons are made from quality Belgian chocolate with local and exotic ingredients added to the mixture inside their crunchy shell. They taste as if they’re purposely prepared with a wine lover’s senses in mind.
It’s precisely the type of filling or ganache of each different praline which plays the lead role in the matchmaking spectacle. The mishmash of added fruity tartness, buttery creaminess and various flavours helps overcome the palate-taxing texture of chocolate and determines what wine goes best.
While normally some particularly sweet chocolate desserts call for an even sweeter wine, tarter pralines give you the chance to be more daring with wine types drier than the usual suspects. So, instead of sweet sherry, port, Madeira, Banyuls, Moscato and Vins Doux Naturels, you can also enjoy a broad variety of Maltese wines.
The most adventurous wine to drink with chocolate is probably a bone-dry sparkling wine. With pralines, however, even brut bubbly is an option.
Malta’s semi-sparkling Girgentina Frizzante definitely works surprisingly well with Malta Chocolate Factory’s tangy milk lemon-butter filled sweet. Together, this unique dry white sparkler and the citrusy milk chocolate praline make a great aperitif and hors d’oeuvre combo to start off any vino-choc extravaganza.
The milk-and-orange truffle, which resident chocolatier David Pulis fills with a ripe orange tasting ganache, lends itself to fruitier white wines like Delicata’s Medina Vermentino Zibibbo. Instead of knocking out the same flavour, the bonbon delightfully heightens the Maltese wine’s zesty quality.
One of the most versatile wines must be the off-dry Ġellewża Frizzante. I’d say Delicata’s original pink sparkler deserves a wildcard for almost any sweet course. Perhaps that’s thanks to its touch of lip-smacking sweetness combined with flavours of summer red fruits interlaced with a very faint presence of liquorice and almonds, typical for the variety.
Ġellewża Frizzante is the obvious go-to for the strawberry flavoured white chocolate crunch praline. It’s a harmoniously balanced tease of sweet and tart tastes. The same bubbly rosé also matches well with the milk coconut praline, but the sweeter, fortified and bottle-aged Grand Vin de Hauteville Moscato is the better synergistic partner with the scrumptious dark hazelnut bonbon.
When combining pralines and wine, always taste from tangy to sweeter combinations before finishing off with darker chocolates and more powerful and sweeter bottles. In the case of dark chocolates, I suggest looking for red wines that are driven by fruit, not earthy characteristics or tannin.
Take Delicata’s suave Grand Vin de Hauteville Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, a must-try with the thick, sinful spicy dark praline with a chili peppered ganache, which I tried last. The red wine’s middle palate suits the praline’s hotness that lingers on your back palate after the chocolate is long gone.
If your household is the slightest bit as wine-besotted as mine, pralines are as good an excuse as any for a food and wine party, unless you feel that two self-indulgences at once are one too many.#
This article by Georges Meekers appeared first in the Times of Malta on 26/01/18.