In a world that seems to be going fucking mad (profanity entirely necessary), it pays to find moments of happiness and clarity. And one fact is abundantly clear: life is made infinitely better by wine and chocolate.
There are few things I love more than spending time with friends who are unapologetic about their love of food and wine. Cooking together and then talking for a good few hours over the meal you’ve created, with a glass of wine or two (or three) to match, is a very simple but hugely valuable activity.
In fact, cooking has started to become officially recognised as more than just a means to an end in everyday life: “It can help a person on an individual level, a family can learn to communicate better, or a group of people can strengthen a team by coming together and cooking.” – Munchies
And what better way is there to indulge in the sweetness of cooking up a feast, than with a sweet wine to match?
Personally, I’ve only discovered my love for white fortified wines recently, having always opted for dry whites in the past. I think I used to assume that I’d find them too sickly because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – give me a cheeseboard for dessert any day. But I now know that a good sweet wine will be balanced out by a lovely prickle of acidity, so that you don’t feel like you’re slurping honey.
This Friday just gone, my friend Hannah and I set out to combine our new found love of Muscat with the healing powers of cooking as a team. We picked up a bottle of Domaine de Coyeux Muscat (half bottle available at Majestic for £7.99) and the ingredients for our favourite chocolate mousse recipe. I’d better add that we did also have a highly nutritious main course (with a knockout Malbec) which I’ll tell you about another time. We’re not animals.
Even from an initial look at the wine as it flowed from the bottle into our chilled glasses, we could tell it was going to be decadent.
Sweet wines have an almost syrupy appearance – this can be down to a number of factors. Some wines employ a fungus known as noble rot (or botrytis if you want to get all Latin about it) which perforates the skins of ripe Muscat grapes, meaning that the water from the flesh of the grape evaporates in dry, hot weather. The remaining juice has a much higher sugar concentration, and so the resultant wine is more viscous.
On this occasion, noble rot doesn’t play a part. The grapes used are already very sweet and the wine has been lightly fortified in order to stop fermentation, resulting in residual sugar that isn’t converted into alcohol.
The Domaine de Coyeux was a wonderful clear golden colour, which looked luxuriously heavy with sugar. After a good sniff, we enjoyed floral notes as well as mouthwatering aromas of honey, melon, vanilla, candied orange and lychee. With sweet wines, you can almost feel the sugar crystallising in your nostrils; try it and let us know if you can feel it too.
On the first sip we were hit by the sweet taste of lychee and apples, as well as grapes. It might sound silly and obvious to describe wine as tasting or smelling of grapes, but it really isn’t! As with any aroma, nothing is obvious; if you feel like that’s what you can detect, you should feel no embarrassment in saying it.
To be completely honest, although this wine had a hint of acidity, it could really have done with a bit more to make our mouths water and therefore cut through the coating of sweetness provided by the sugar.
However, when paired with the chocolate mousse, which we made with a combination of 70 and 85% dark chocolate, the bitterness of the chocolate provided the edge that was lacking in the wine itself. This really elevated the complexity of the wine and meant that we happily finished off the half bottle without feeling nauseous.
The wine had a nice long finish, which kept us licking our lips and swallowing the remnants of those fruity flavours. It could have been more well-balanced because of the low acidity, which means that we probably would have enjoyed it more if we drank it a year or two earlier. On its own, it’s acceptable; but with a rich chocolate mousse or chocolate fondant, it becomes thoroughly good and enjoyable.
All in all, a great complement to a truly lovely evening full of free flowing conversation and therapeutic cooking, accompanied by London Grammar’s debut album If You Wait. Although, if you do actually wait too much longer, this particular vintage might be a little too sweet to stomach…
You can find Domaine de Coyeux 2007 Muscat in store at Majestic wines for £7.99 per half bottle, or online at Amazon for under £20 per whole bottle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Domaine-Coyeux-Muscat-Beaumes-Venise/dp/B00P120WV4