Barry Callebaut has linked its origin chocolates with different wine varieties, in an effort to tap into a growing premium chocolate market by highlighting the 'sophisticated' connection.
Origin chocolate is made with beans harvested in one country only, which can mean the finished product has a taste that is quite distinctive and unique to beans produced in that place.
By associating the chocolates' compatibility with different wine varieties, the firm hopes to demonstrate how the combination can further highlight the broad spectrum of chocolate flavours.
The company has divided its origin chocolates into three flavour groups: mild, strong and powerful. Specific wines are then suggested for each of these groups.
For instance, Barry Callebaut says that mild chocolates with a light cocoa flavour and a pronounced, fruity, floral or spicy aroma, should be tasted with dry or semi-sweet wines "with pronounced acidity, subtle elegance and fruitiness."
The company adds that the wines "must be rather young and reflect minimal woodiness or spiciness so that they can best emphasis the delicate flavours of these mild chocolates."
In drawing a direct comparison between chocolate and wine Hans Vriens, Chief Innovation Officer at Barry Callebaut said: "We have come to enjoy chocolate the way we do fine wine. Like wine, Barry Callebaut's origin chocolates are very much a reflection of the specific cocoa varieties and the unique soil and weather conditions in which they are grown."
Barry Callebaut said that it enlisted the help of a Belgium wine critic to help perfect the matches of origin chocolates to classic wines from around the world.
Some of the selections suggest that he was inspired by French producers of certain fortified, desert wines who have been singing the praises of enjoying their wines with chocolate for years, often even maintaining that the wine has aromas of cocoa and chocolate.
Barry Callebaut advises that these wines would go best with its 'powerful' origin chocolates, since their pronounced strong-bodied flavour lets them compete against the bitterness of the cocoa.
Rising Popularity of origin chocolate
A survey of consumers in Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany, UK and the US, published by Barry Callebaut in March this year, suggested that 42 per cent of respondents had already discovered origin chocolate, 26 per cent more than in 2006, and one fifth of all consumers eat it at least once a month.
Barry Callebaut says it has over 40 different varieties of origin chocolate, many introduced recently to meet the growing demand.
The association of chocolate and wine has reached its natural conclusion in the UK. Earlier this year celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal won the gourmet section of the Condé Nast Traveller Innovation and Design Awards for his warm chocolate wine.
"The renowned chef began slicing grapes with cocoa beans to come up with a surprising chocolate wine", said Condé Nast.
According to the The Times newspaper, the "velvety, frothy drink" is made by whisking a good red dessert wine with sugar and chocolate.