Hey, it’s not always just about getting a buzz; sometimes you can turn imbibing into an educational and cultural experience. I had the pleasure of doing just that when I attended a champagne and chocolate tasting last week at the Akron Art Museum. It also served as a great venue to host my MariaMedia launch party, kick things off with some champagne, and visit France, Italy, Spain, and Germany all in one night!
I want to give credit to Mario Vitale, the wine department manager at the West Point Market in Akron, for bringing along such a fine selection of bubbly and for his expert presentation on the merits of each. This guy knows his stuff and he is a lot of fun too! If you ever need a great bottle of wine (who doesn’t?) and live in the Northeast Ohio area, Mario is the guy to see and the West Point Market in Akron has one of the best wine selections I’ve seen.
After tasting (and learning about) three different sparkling wines and two champagnes, we moved on to another vice of mine…chocolate! Gina Thomas McGee, the membership manager for the museum, provided a How to Taste Chocolate 101, and served up some amazing Valrhona dark chocolate samples.
It was a great evening all around, and here’s what I learned about champagne & chocolate:
1) Champagne…it’s not just for celebrations anymore! Don’t be afraid to bring champagne to the table – you’ll be amazed at how well it can pair with foods like eggs, fruit, seafood, and pasta.
2) Sweeter wines like Riesling or sparkling wines made with Riesling grapes are a great choice to pair with hot, spicy foods like Indian and Asian curries.
3) I should host a brunch for my friends very soon and serve eggs with a Prosecco version of sparkling wine. It will bring a whole new meaning to brunch! As the person next to me said, “It’s good to get liquored up early in the morning!”
4) Don’t just automatically grab a bottle of mass-produced champagne from one of the big houses. There are many smaller producers out there that produce vibrant, mind-boggling products that will blow you away.
5) I should go to Europe two times a year to try out new wines and champagnes! (Mario does this every year. Mario, you are a role model and an inspiration!)
6) Champagne as a rule is a blended wine.
7) When tasting chocolate, be still, clear your palate, look at the chocolate, rub it, smell it, feel the chocolate in your mouth, taste it, and enjoy the finish in your mouth! That’s a lot of steps, but I never knew what I was missing.
8) Seriously, rub the chocolate before you taste it! The warmth of your body will cause the chocolate to melt and release odors. These odors enhance the intensity of your tasting.
9) I think the Valrhona chocolates with 85% or more cacao can get you high!
10) “Rules in Italy are like suggestions.” Thanks, Mario, for that hilarious quote.
As the evening went on, it was fun to see the rest of the crowd loosen up, ask questions, and enjoy the vibe at the museum. If you want to try drinking and learning, the Akron Art Museum is hosting an Art and Ale event on March 12. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some Wicked Ale and Warhol.