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Natural companions

This holiday season, if you are looking for something different to get your family, friends and co-workers together consider a wine and chocolate party!

Personally, I regard wine and chocolate as a major food group during the holidays. Pairing them together may seem a bit of stretch but, if you consider attributes of both, you might be convinced that together they are natural companions.

Consider that both are made from fruit (the cocoa nibs are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree), the flavour and aroma yielded by both cacao pod and grape are a function of their harvest, and both are made from a blend of beans or grapes with distinct flavour profiles which adds to the complexity of tastes. See, the similarities? It really is a marriage made in heaven!

This union wasn’t something I concocted at the end of very along week on a Friday night, but it is pairing that is being conducted by our local chocolate hobbyist, BJ Tumanut. Tumanut or better known as the “CocoLady” is the owner of the Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut located at village square mall, in Red Deer has started hosting private and public chocolate and wine tasting parties so that people can explore all the delicious details of two of their favourite foods!

Since taking ownership of the chocolate store last fall, more and more of her customers started asking for sessions with wine and chocolate. Combining her experience and extensive knowledge of wine with her love for chocolate, Tumanut decided to do just that.

Tumanut takes a “mix and match” approach to finding people’s personal palate preferences when it comes to pairing wine with chocolate. By serving mix of wines, one sparkling, one still red, one still white, port, and ice wine, with twelve varieties of in house chocolate , she takes each chocolate through a series of wine pairings to see which combinations rises to the top.

“From a “technical” wine & food pairing perspective wine and chocolate do not actually pair well together in general, “ admits Tumanut. “Nuances of one or the other generally very easily mask or alter the character of the other in a negative way, “ explains Tumanut. But during her parties, the group explores what pairs together well to make both the wine and chocolate shine!

Since wine and chocolate is a mysterious pairing that seems to have starkly different results for different palates Tumanut confesses that, “the only match that is good is the one that works for you.”

The process for wine and chocolate pairing follows the same kind of course as a wine or chocolate tasting, except you taste both together.

The session begins with examining the attributes of the chocolate. “Note the aroma, look for the shine and glossiness and listen for the crisp snap when you break it; these are attributes of good quality chocolate, “says Tumanut

Before tasting it, though, you are advised to take the same notice of the wine. “Swirl the wine in the glass; be aware of the colour and the viscosity. Sniff the wine and note the bouquet and flavour components. Sip the wine; let it fill your mouth. Notice the wine’s complexity and consider which flavours come to mind, “explains Tumanut. After this exercise you then take a small bite of the chocolate and let it sit on your tongue. When it just begins to melt, sip the wine again and swirl together with the chocolate.

Participants become aware that the flavours are released in stages. The first notes are filled with fruity acidity (from the grapes in the wine, and the cacao beans in the chocolate), with middle stage filled with sweetness and the finish with flavour notes common to both wine and chocolate. Flavours detected are fruity, nutty, woody and even roasted flavours specifically identifiable with chocolate.

The concept of wine and chocolate pairing has really taken off in Red Deer; since starting up the session, Tumanut has already hosted five classes. Tumanut, considers, “multiples of 10 are ideal (10, 20, 30...) because of the set amount of wine in each bottle. “Less than 10 means too much wine/person (can’t drive after) more than 10 means participants will not get a real taste of the wine, “ explains Tumanut.

So far, the private parties have been “girls night out” type of events (bachelorette party & dress club). The public parties have been mainly couples! “This has been a great way to get more men coming to our store and educating them on how much their women love chocolate,” says Tumanut.

Focusing on fun and entertainment, Tumanut creates a relaxed atmosphere during her sessions making it a perfect venue for any corporate event, Christmas party, birthday, or anniversary celebration. The hardship is to overcome the urge to simply gulp the wine and snort down the chocolate and instead savour and take pleasure in the experience.

To offset the sweet, Tumant also serves meat and cheese from Big Bend Meat Market.

If you are interested in learning more about wine and chocolate pairing you can sign up for one of Tumanut’s classes on her website or contact her on facebook: or Twitter: @cocolady_ca.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at or on Twitter @madhubadoni. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on



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