The Story of the Nocturne and the Noble One
The first time I saw a Guittard's Nocturne 91% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate Bar (which quietly crept onto the market last July) was at the New York Chocolate Show. Guittard's director of sales Mark Spini handed one to me. And, just as quickly, he snatched it away. "You can't eat this now," he said. You see, I was hanging around the Guittard booth with Andrew Shotts of Garrison Confections (Guittard's former pastry chef) and Amy Rosenfield of the Mon Aimee Chocolat boutique in Pittsburgh (which keeps both Guittard and Garrison products in stock). And we were drinking a bottle of Zinfandel. Mark explained that I couldn't possibly taste his super-dark, super-complex bar with a wine as heavy as a Zin. He told me to pop a milk chocolate in my mouth instead. The Zin was not for the Nocturne.
Seneca Klassen of the Bittersweet Cafes in the Bay Area seconded that sentiment. "People want to," said Seneca, "but you really can't match chocolate with red wine." It's about science. Specifically, it's about tannin. It's the kind of thing Alton Brown should dedicate a show to. Both chocolate and red wine contain tannins, which dry out your mouth, and Zinfandels and high-cacao percentage chocolates are super-tannic. Seneca suggested that I try the Nocturne with something sweet and fruity, like a dessert wine.
Just in time for Valentines Day, I've found it, the perfect pair: Guittard's Nocturne chocolate bar and a bottle of De Bortoli Noble One from Australia, a kind of ambrosia-in-a-bottle made from grapes that have sweetened under the influence of botrytis spores (also called "noble rot"). The Nocturne is sharp and tangy. The Noble One is sticky and sweet. They both taste like the fruits of gods. The perfect valentine. Not the kind of valentine you wrap up in a gaudy pink ribbon. The kind of valentine that lets you say "Darling, I've taken care of everything, all is right with the world, and we are the most sophisticated people in it."
About the author: Emily Stone, proprietor of Chocolate in Context, is a chocolate enthusiast, itinerant traveler, and a lover of literature who lives in Pittsburgh. She's been a movie reviewer, a reproductive health researcher, and an independent bookstore owner. Her writing has appeared in the magazines Budget Travel, Travel + Leisure, and Time Out New York, as well as on the websites World Hum and Epicurious.