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Anne Krebiehl: blog on the sensuous side found at LIWF

Published:  06 July, 2010

Anne Krebiehl on the sensuous side at last month's LIWF.

No doubt big deals were struck, profitable plans hatched and new partnerships clinched. But serious business left room for a sensuous side at this year's LIWF, like the disarmingly luscious wine and chocolate pairings offered at Buller Wines.

Used to regular chocolate and wine pairings at home in Rutherglen, Julie Reid, export manager at Buller, joined forces with the London chocolatier Melt. Looking for a local producer sourcing only first-class ingredients she found Melt, Louise Nason's Ledbury Road outfit. Reid sent samples ahead and the chocolate fairies got to work.

Upon arrival they held a tasting to fine-tune and calibrate the pairings so each of Buller's wines came with a sultry match: First up was Fine Old Tokai with a bespoke Buller Tokay Truffle; The Portly Gentleman (Shiraz & Grenache) was presented with smoky, dark chocolate from volcanic Java; Fine Old Muscat went with chocolate-coated marzipan studded with candied orange peel, the echoing citrus flavours simply divine.

Reid's own favourite was the Fine Old Liqueur Tawny (Shiraz, PX, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) with single-origin Columbian dark truffle. How did Reid match her wines to Louise Nason's Melt chocolates? "We were looking for something that would complement and lift both wine and chocolate and take it to a different level," Reid says, " something that would melt." Melt I promptly did...

The delirious sugar hit at Bullers could be offset by more ethereal pleasures at SATS where perfumer and whisky enthusiast Dr George Dodd launched his prosaically named "Wine Nosing Aroma Kit", a home-grown version of the popular 'Le Nez du Vin", the has an initial array of 24 aromas and access to and online club.

Since you smell perfumer's paper strips rather than the vial (as you would with Le Nez), you can combine strips to re-create a wine's bouquet. "You can build up a vast repertoire of wine aroma profiles. The internet club allows you to buy four more aromas every month." It all was born out of a successful whisky aroma kit launched 18 months ago. According to Dodd, his "mission in life is to encourage people to train their nose," all orchestrated from his studio in Scotland.

I walked away in a waft of blossom, green apple and cut grass towards the next sensory hit, a 'mystery tasting' in the darkened booth of the Rhône stand. Each taster got a stylish little blindfold emblazoned with 'vins du Rhône' while Oliver Roustang and Regis Aliot, both enologists at InterRhône, poured the secret wines into our black tasting glasses. In order to jot our impression down, we were allowed peep out of the blindfolds. Amidst giggles, surprisingly many mixed up whites and rosés, even though the floral hit of Viognier was unmistakeable.

"This was the first time here [we did that] for the LIWF. We had this idea at Vinisud in Montpellier but wanted to try it here because the UK market is more open," so Roustang, "we wanted to show you that in a blind tasting your sensations are different. Usually the colour makes you imagine the sensations you should have." They served everything from Vidal Fleury's Condrieu to a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (Dom de Bernardines) via Cornas, Cairanne and Tavel, one of the wines was even served twice.

Will they do this again? Sure, says Roustang, "but you always have to keep in mind that wine is for pleasure!"

Off to more joy at Brix, "a chocolate that is specifically designed to complement wine," explains Bruce Barber, president. "Each variety [milk, medium and extra dark] pairs with a different style of wine." Surprisingly these are dry wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Nebbiolo. It works, so Barber, because of the particular flavour profile of Ghanaian cocoa, "the tannin in the chocolate will offset the tannin in the wine and will let the fruit come forward."

Only the Brix milk chocolate version is for sweet wines in line with more traditional wine & chocolate matches. Presented beautifully in 227g blocks, they look like ingots of dark gold. "We fracture it off the block like a hard cheese; this gives you the shards that dissolve in your mouth really quickly." Indeed, this could take the place of dessert and cheese course and be a real hit with people who like to hang on to their dry reds after dinner. Brix has been around in the States for "around for two years, but we launched in the UK just now.

 People arrive very sceptical but then they go 'wow'." I expect to see a lot more of those bars around at dinner party tables and I have a sneaking suspicion that they go down very well even without the vino. Time to sober up: the full force of Simon Tam's bird's eye chilies at the engaging and spirited NZ Aromatics Masterclass does the trick: I am jolted awake!