Wine and chocolate. What could possibly go wrong? That’s right. Nothing. Nothing could go wrong. In fact, nothing could be more right.
Now I have done copious wine tastings and I have partaken in more than a handful of pairing experiences to boot, but the wine and chocolate pairing at Durbanville Hills was my first. It is certainly a good place to start.
Stellenbosch Wine Route is arguably the most popular of its kind in South Africa, yet Durbanville is something of a hidden treasure trove and instead of jewels, you will find superb wines and, in the case of Durbanville Hills, some of the best chocolate you have ever tasted.
Wine and chocolate pairing. A match made in heaven.
Durbanville Hills looms like a colossus overlooking the wine valley below, a massive block-like structure that is impressive to behold, but as formidable as it is from the outside, it is only when you are inside that you experience the sheer magnitude of its positioning. Once in the tasting room, you will be blown away by the view, the massive glass windows providing you with a panorama across Table Bay – from the beaches of Melkbosstrand to the iconic Table Mountain.
It is an exquisite view for a tasting experience that is just as exceptional.
Don’t let the old guard fool you, there is nothing tacky about wine and chocolate pairings, if anything they complement one another perfectly. You will also not be eating store-bought chocolates – the estate’s tasters first test the wines, with the pairing in mind, before the chocolate is made – every harvest. Not only does this ensure that the chocolate serves to bring out the flavours of the wines, it also means that with each harvest comes new and delectable flavours.
All the chocolates – even the ‘retired’ ones – are sold at the tasting centre as slabs and they are well worth stocking up on, especially the limited editions with a shelf-life dictated by the wines produced.
Durbanville Hills also offers a wine and biltong pairing.
But back to the present harvest where we were given five pairings to sample, all with a vastly different range of textures and flavours.
First up was the Durbanville Hills Rose, paired with the Blushing Bride, a silky, dark chocolate with a rich, berry flavour that naturally enhances the fresh fruit nose of the wine.
Next the Durbanville Hills Merlot and Midnight in the Karoo, a fresh mint chocolate that grasps hold of the minty notes in the Merlot and brings them crashing across your palate.
The Durbanville Hills Pinotage paired with Atlantic Dusk was third in the queue but was a clear winner for me. I do enjoy a good Pinotage and the estate’s is superb on its own – paired with this delicate hazelnut it is an absolute dynamo. A contrast of tastes and scents, this particular pairing left a lasting mark.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with Echoes of Good Hope, didn’t quite live up to the Pinotage, but rich chocolate with strong bursts of red fruit does well to combine with the natural heaviness of the wine and adds to the woody palate.
Finally, it was time for the Shiraz – another favourite of mine – which has been paired with Spiced South Easter. This pairing really brought home the experience for me, because while the Pinotage came out tops for me, the pairing of the Shiraz with the Cape Malay Spice chocolate was incredible. With each bite, followed by a healthy sip, the flavours mixed together, really maxing out the flavours in both. It really is quite incredible… As is the pairing experience.
Durbanville Hills has outdone itself here and for just R80 is not hard on the wallet either. If chocolate is not your thing (said nobody ever), then give the biltong and wine pairing or the food and wine pairing a bash. You won’t be disappointed either way.