Uncorking this award-winning South African icon truly is a celebration of excellence. Pair it with a pizza topped with pears, gorgonzola and cured ham and you are in for a true revelation.
When I recently passed by my favourite wine shop, I could almost not believe my eyes. Sitting right there on the large barrel at the door entrance featuring the latest arrivals was a bottle of one of my favourite red blends from the Cape, the multiple award-winning The Chocolate Block.
My first encounter with this highly celebrated wine was during a visit to the South African Cape Winelands several years back. I vividly remember ordering it out of curiosity, drawn by the unusual name … and what a great choice it was.
Needless to say, I had to pick up a bottle (OK, I went away with two), and it was obvious it would not take me long to crack one of them open.
Nestled in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, Boekenhoutskloof (pronounced Book-n-Howed-Kloof) takes its name from the indigenous Boekenhout tree, a Cape Beech tree that locally is highly praised for furniture making. It is one of the various historic farms of the area, founded in 1776. But its most exiting time started in 1993 – which truly market the beginning of a new area.
That year, Boekenhoutskloof changed hands and what follows was an ambitious vineyard planting programme that propelled the estate into the top ranks of the local wineries. And to create one of South Africa’s most legendary wines.
The Chocolate Block each year since it’s very first vintage achieves the highest accolades. And since the first vintage, the winery also keeps the making of its icon somewhat of a mystery. Only as much is revealed: it’s a Rhone-style bland based on a majority of Syrah whilst other grape varieties are changing from vintage to vintage based on the actual growing conditions during the year.
The elegant bottle with its minimalistic bright white label will be a highlight on the dinner table too.
And featuring both on the label and the figurehead is this beautiful of an adaption of an early silver hallmark of the Cape of Good Hope, carrying the dove of piece and hope.
The Chocolate Block Tasting Notes & Food Pairing
Matured for 12 months in French barrique, The Chocolate Block is a Rhone-style blend that offers a subtle undertone of dark chocolate. Grapes are carefully sourced from the Goldmine and Porseleinberg farms in the Swartland region which form part of Boekenhoutskloof.
In the glass, a dark ruby red with black hues.
On the nose, generous aromas of black plum and black currant, chocolate, tobacco, baking spice, pressed rose petals and a light touch of menthol.
On the palate, medium-bodied with gritty tannins, showing notes of fennel, bay leaf and white pepper. Long finish with high minerality and notes of chocolate.
The Chocolate Block is a great wine to pair with a wide range of food. It’s definitely a great match with red meat, spiced meat, or rich stews. It would also pair very well with a BBQ-style chicken, pasta and pizza.
With autumn in full swing and the unbeatable combination of dark chocolate and pears in mind, I’ve made a pizza with pears, gorgonzola, and cured ham. This delicious combination of salty, savoury and sweet flavours turned out to be a fantastic match.
Recipe: Pizza with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Prosciutto
Serves 2 large or 4 small pizzas
400 g all-purpose flour
teaspoons instant dry yeast
60 ml warm milk
80 ml warm water
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing
2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
150-200 g shredded pizza cheese (gouda or mozzarella work best)
150 g gorgonzola, crumbled
100 g cured ham
10-15 sage leaved
some thyme sticks
In a large bowl, add flour yeast, milk, water, salt, and olive oil. Knead until smooth and elastic (for about 10 to 15 minutes). If the dough remains to dry, add more water.
Form the dough into a ball. Grease a separate bowl. Place the dough into the oil and turn around so it gets coated with the oil all around.
Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise for two hours in a warm place (it should have doubled before further use).
When the dough has doubled, take out of the bowl, and knead again shortly.
Divide into two large or four smaller pieces.
Preheat oven to 190°C.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with some flour or semolina.
Roll the pizza dough out into two or four slices.
Top first with the shredded cheese, then add the pears, crumbled gorgonzola, and cured ham.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheeses are bubbly and golden.
After about half of the bake time, sprinkle over the sage leaves.
Take from the oven, top with some thyme sticks and serve immediately.