Yesterday, we attended the Three Wine Men Christmas Tasting at Lancashire County Cricket Ground. While we tasted some great wines (my top pick was Two Paddocks Picnic Riesling), the highlight of our day was the Port & Chocolate Matching Masterclass, presented by the excellent Sarah Jane Evans MW. Ramos Pinto port, Godiva chocolates and a Master of Wine, tasting doesn’t get any better than this!
Sarah Jane opened the session by allowing us to smell and suck (but not bite!) a square of dark chocolate while she gave us some background on her extremely tough existence as a wine and chocolate expert. She explained that, while port is traditionally enjoyed with cheese on Christmas Day, it is much more versatile than that, as we experienced over the next 30 minutes.
The first port we tasted was Ramos Pinto Collector Unfiltered Ruby Reserve NV. I thought this was excellent value for money (£16.99), as it was velvety smooth with no alcohol “burn” and packed with dark cherry flavour. (The Ramos Pinto website entry for this port describes the fruit as “sanguine”; I’m not sure if they mean in the sense of being red or optimistic, but either way I like it.) We then took a bite of the Godiva Saint Germain marzipan covered in dark chocolate. Now, I normally hate marzipan, but I do try to stay open-minded so I gave it a go. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on it by itself, but when I took another sip of the port, they were fantastic together: the marzipan magnified the smoothness of the port. Next, we tasted the same port with the Godiva Intense Framboise. This had a different effect, emphasising the (sanguine) fruit flavours and extending the length of the finish.
Next came the Ramos Pinto LBV 2009. This is richly creamy, with vanilla and cherry flavours. The website describes this one as defiant! I’m not sure what the writer meant, but it was my favourite port of the session, defying my preconception that I prefer tawny port. We tasted it with the Godiva Dark Orangette and Tourbillon 85 – a dark ganache. They were both excellent combinations, but I loved this port so much that I preferred to taste it by itself. (Believe me, for me to prefer anything to chocolate, it has to be sublime.)
The final port was Ramos Pinto 10 Year Old Tawny Quinta de Ervamoira NV. This was a proper Christmassy treat, full of toffee, walnut and figs. We tasted it with the Godiva Speculoos Truffle and Mochaccino Truffle. I preferred it with the Speculoos Truffle (if you’re not familiar, speculoos are spiced biscuits popular in Belgium, the home of Godiva), which brought out lovely rich caramel flavours.
My favourite things about the masterclass were the LBV port, the speculoos truffle and Sarah Jane’s warmth, enthusiasm and ability to convey her wealth of knowledge in a way suitable for the absolute novice and keen amateur.