I confess that I’m a total chocoholic. So when Tessa Halstead, creative gal and second-gen chocolatier (her dad was an early pioneer of artisanal chocolate-making!) invited our team to meet at her darling Austin shop for a wine & chocolate tasting party, we couldn’t wait to make this our next field trip. Much to our tastebuds’ delight, the Chocolaterie Tessa team led us through a chocolate lover’s fantasy, showing us the right way to pair her decadent creations with the vino that will bring out its flavors best. Click through to learn all about how to buy the very best chocolate, then setup the wine pairings for your next fun gathering — this February 14th perhaps? Just be forewarned: serious chocolate cravings may occur by the time you reach the end of this post…
*photos by kate lesueur
Tessa’s father opened legendary chocolaterie Morgen’s Chocolate in Dallas the year she was born, and after growing up surrounded by the art of artisanal chocolate making, it seems so fitting – and really inspiring – that she went on to open Chocolaterie Tessa last year. Like her father, Tessa handcrafts all of her chocolates without artificial colors and preservatives — but she’s put her own spin on her creations with a modern eye for design and by seeking out the finest ingredients currently on the market.
Our field trip to Chocolaterie Tessa began by satisfying our afternoon sweet tooths with luxurious sips and chocolatey sweets. Learning never tasted so good…
Tessa’s first tip: in order to prevent your senses from being overwhelmed by the bold flavors of darker chocolates, begin tasting with light chocolates and lighter wines, before proceeding to darker and richer ones.
Our first pass paired the Maracuyá (White chocolate truffle with Passion Fruit) with a fizzy Asti Spumante. One tidbit we were all delighted to learn is that white chocolate — when made using authentic ingredients — does indeed classify as real chocolate.
The sweet and fruity flavor of the white chocolate passionfruit treat accented the Italian sparkler flawlessly.
Tessa noted, “the natural sweetness of the Moscato Bianco grape comes through with full flavor and wonderful texture, complementing the richness of the white chocolate.”
Our second pairing was crafted to bring out buttery richness: Salted Butter Caramel (enrobed in milk chocolate) accented by an Aged Tawny Port.
Tessa describes, “loads of caramel, honey and dried fruits radiate from this fine tawny port. The full-bodied richness and nutty flavors of the aged Portuguese classic combine well with the savory-sweet palate of our epic Salted Butter Caramel.”
Our third and final pairing accomplished a rich and decadent finale to the dreamy afternoon, by means of the Amano Madagascar (70% dark chocolate ganache enrobed in dark chocolate — pure heaven!), served with the Italian red wine, Verso Rosso Salento.
Tessa’s reasoning behind this pairing: “With rich, dark fruit and a nose of spicy earth, this big Italian red is dynamite with a dark chocolate bonbon, (in this case, our signature Amano Madagascar.) Verso is a full-bodied, luscious wine made with a small percentage of “appassimento”, or raisined, grapes. The sweetness derived from this process combined with the bright acidity and low tannins of the wine make this a winning partner with the complex, fruity flavors emanating from one of our darkest chocolate pieces. Enjoy!”
By choosing sparkling wines, ports and fruity red wines, Tessa added just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chocolate in each pairing.
We learned that tasting chocolate and tasting wine has many similarities. For instance, like wine, chocolates have “linger.” As you savor the taste, you can also breathe it in and the flavor lasts.
As we moved down the chocolate spectrum from white to milk to dark, the amount of cocoa solids increases, by way of decreasing the amount of dairy and sugar. The more cocoa, the more antioxidants (so be sure to eat your daily dose of dark chocolate! Just sayin’.)
*btw, these gorgeous flowers are by bricolage curated florals.
And here are a few of Tessa’s tips on choosing chocolates for your own wine + chocolate pairing soirée:
- For darker chocolates, try to choose chocolates that don’t have extremely powerful added flavors (like spices or liqueurs) that will make your pairing job harder and tends to overwhelm the palate.
- Make sure that you chill your champagne glasses ahead of time so that when you’re ready to go, your first pass gets off to a crisp start.
- I decanted our wines for about 2 hours ahead of our tasting to give them time to open up.
The most popular of Tessa’s chocolates are the Salted Butter Caramels (a recipe that was meticulously perfected over a year of testing) and the Mocha Pyramid (a signature piece inspired by Tessa’s chocolatier father). And yes, they are available to order here!
We loved (and happily devoured) them all.
After proudly continuing the family legacy, Tessa has mastered the true art of making the finest chocolate using European techniques. We witnessed pure chocolate alchemy as Tessa’s chocolatier artisans carved craftily away to shape the delightful desserts in her Austin workshop. These cocoa-infused gems take 3-4 days to make a single piece — magic doesn’t happen overnight.
The space is embellished with display pieces that feel elegant and modern, yet comfortably inviting and at-home — our favorite accents were the vintage chocolate molds lining a shelf around the tasting room. We also swooned over the gorgeous marble table that was the scene of our tasting and took center stage of the chocolaterie shop.
Love was on everyone’s lips as our team left Chocolaterie Tessa! And of course, we couldn’t leave without scoring a few Valentine’s day sweets to surprise the chocolate lovers’ in our lives.