14TH-20TH OCTOBER 2013

Treat yourself this week (or any other week) to a Swiss dessert wine, created to be perfect with chocolate or chocolate desserts.

This week, all over the UK people are indulging in chocolate. Whilst savouring the luscious range of chocolates on offer, it might be worth saying a big thank you to the tiny country that brought chocolate, as we know it today, to the world’s attention over 100 years ago.

Switzerland’s gift to the world.

The Mayans first used coco beans to prepare a very nourishing drink called Xocolatl. That was the around 600 AD, and the Spanish conquerors brought the first coco back to Spain. Anna of Austria, who grew up in Madrid, introduced drinking chocolate to the French court when she married King Louis XIII. Then the Parisians turned it into a fashionable drink of the aristocracy and from there it spread throughout the whole of Europe.

Swiss born Francois-Louis Cailler picked up and ran with chocolate, establishing the first chocolate factory in Corsier in 1811. In 1840, Julien and Daniel Peter took over the Cailler factory and invented milk chocolate.

But the real breakthrough for chocolate was due to Swiss-born Rodolphe Lindt who invented the conch in 1879. This is a machine that stirs liquid chocolate to break down any remaining clumps. For the first time it was possible to produce a smooth chocolate melting on the tongue. Lindt called this chocolate fondant.

Swiss chocolate began to take the world by storm between 1890 and 1920, coinciding with the golden age of Swiss tourism. Members of the top echelons of society throughout the world who spent their holidays in Switzerland came to know and appreciate Swiss chocolate and took its reputation home with them. The initiative of Swiss chocolate producers conquered the world chocolate market between 1900 and 1918.

Wines to match

Despite this rich chocolate history and the fact that Switzerland has been making wine for 2,000 years, it was difficult to find wines that matched rich chocolate desserts.

In 2011 winemaker Rodrigo Banto, from the award-winning Cave de la Côte, a co-operative of winegrowers from the La Cote region between Geneva and Lausanne, began experimenting with fortified wines.

He was a guest at our British cuisine and Swiss wine dinner held at The Chancery in London on May 20th 2013. Many of our customers attended this successful dinner and enjoyed a four course meal created by chef Simon Christey-French, matched with wines from Cave de la Côte, Badoux and Domaine de Maison Blanche.

Created for Chocolate

Explaining his dessert wine Gama-Belle, matched with chocolate and hazelnut tart with prunes, hazelnut praline, jelly and crème fresh sorbet, Rodrigo reveals:

"The owner of the restaurant L’Ermitage, Bernard Ravet in Switzerland, asked me to create a dessert wine to match a selection of chocolate desserts. His daughter Isabelle is a trained patissiere and works at the restaurant. Bernard kept pestering me to create this wine, I kept saying ‘I will think about it’ as the Swiss are not renowned for creating fortified wines. It was new territory for me. Eventually I relented and I created a wine made from the grape variety Gamaret. We picked the grapes late, put them into boxes to dry for one- two months, adding 100g per litre of liquor to create the wine. I called the wine Gama-Belle, Gama for the grape and Belle for Isabelle. We have been making this wine for six years now and it is very well received."

The Michelin Star L’Ermitage located in Vufflens-le-Château specialises in creative gourmet cuisine using locally sourced products. It is a member of the Grandes Tables de Suisse.

If you would like to try the wine and can’t get to the restaurant in Switzerland, we have a limited number in stock.

Gama-Belle tasting notes. Intense with aromas of cassis and berries. On the palate it is soft and rounded. Aromas of cassis scents are enriched with cocoa and dark chocolate. A long and harmonious finish. Perfect with cheese, chocolate or desserts. Available here, and as always, with no minimum order, you can just get 1 bottle to try - we know you'll be back.