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Sometimes, what you need is a ‘little bit of chocolate’. Sometimes, this just isn’t enough. For when you need dazzle and indulge our selection of luxury hampers is any chocoholic’s dream.

But it’s not just chocolate – we have collaborated with wine merchants to the Queen, Corney & Barrow to create two deluxe collections of chocolate and wine pairings. Over the course of several tastings we came up with six chocolate and wine combinations. Branching out from the usual ‘the sweeter the better’ rule of wine and chocolate matching, we have paired everything from Blanxart’s rich dark Dominican republic to Omnom’s Dirty Blonde white chocolate with bottle ranging from New World reds to Vinsanto.

With each match we weren’t simply looking for things that went well together, but for extraordinary pairings. While this took some time, we are delighted with the result – together each bar and bottle are transformed as the chocolate brings out new dimensions in the wine and vice versa.

With these gifts, you can widen your foodie horizon’s with a wine and chocolate hamper, or simply fulfill your chocoholic fantasies..

The Chocolate & Wine Aficionado Collection – £109.95

Corney and Barrow 4 bottle and bar collectionA spectacular collection for the true foodie connoisseur. Two reds, a white and a dessert wine have been expertly matched with two dark, a milk and a white chocolate. Presented in a sumptuous Corney & Barrow gift box this hamper can only be described as the ultimate chocolate and wine indulgence.

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The Deluxe Chocolate Hamper – £99.95

Deluxe Chocolate hamperOur most decadent chocolate collection to date. Nestled inside our wooden hamper you will find the best the world of craft chocolate has to offer. As well as bars and chocolate tea the hamper also includes a box of our Craft Chocolate Coated Ginger, made exclusively for Cocoa Runners.

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The Chocolate Taster Collection – £54.95

Corney and Barrow 2 bar and bottle collectionTwo sophisticated reds and two beautiful dark bars come together in this luxurious collection. Beautifully packaged in a Corney & Barrow gift box this selection is completely irresistible. The perfect gift for those who prefer the darker side…

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The Chocolate Lover’s Hamper – £59.95

The Chocolate Lover's Hamper A spectacular collection of artisan chocolate bars and treats are packed into our wooden hamper box. As well as bars our hamper contains cocoa tea and chocolate coated delicacies.

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Please note: This gift can only be dispatched to UK addresses

Inside this luxury chocolate gift you will discover a bottle of Casa Felipe Carmenere Chilean red wine paired with two dark chocolates. Together with Corney and Barrow we tried and tasted different wine and chocolate pairings to create a truly exceptional hamper.

As well as the red we have included two dark chocolate bars from the Cocoa Runners Library, so you can compare and discover for yourself which pairing you prefer.

The wine and chocolate come beautifully presented in a Great Western Wine & Cocoa Runners gift box. The perfect present for any occasion, we recommend bringing along this gift to a dinner party with friends.

Corney and Barrow selected a bottle of Casa Felipe Carmenere from Chile, which we have paired with:

There are many parallels between great chocolate and great wine.  For both you need great ingredients – the finest grapes or the finest beans.  For both, you need craftsmanship and time.  The end result are tastes and sensations that inspire, enthuse and tantalize.

From the start of Cocoa Runners we’ve been keen to learn from the wine industry.  We’ve held joint tastings (and indeed were doing one at Bath with Wine Gang today and another with Decanter next weekend).  We’ve invited wine luminaries to “curate” a selection of their favourite bars – most recently Joanna Simon and Decanter Magazine, and we have more exciting collaborations to come.

And with Corney and Barrow we’ve now taken this one step further.  With the support of Rebecca Palmer and her buying team we’ve matched six wines to six chocolates in two unique collections: a four bar, four bottle hamper and a two bar, two bottle hamper. Creating these collections was a real joy, not least as – to quote Rebecca – “more often than not the best matches were the least expected”!

Perfect for sharing with friends, as gifts or simply for indulging yourself, we hope you will enjoy these two collections as much as we do!

You can view the two collections here.

It’s one thing to say that quality wine can only be produced from quality grapes and similarly with for incredible chocolate you need incredible beans, but it is quite another to take the time and develop the skill to actually create such incredible chocolates and wines..

Once the cocoa beans have been harvested farmers must then ferment and dry the beans, further developing the chocolate flavour. Unlike wine, chocolate is rarely made in the same country the beans are grown in. Once fermented and dried, the beans are sent to craft makers all over the world. These small batch chocolate makers then roast, winnow, grind and conch the beans before tempering and molding the chocolate into bars. With each step the maker draws out the bean’s flavour profile, subtly altering and enhancing it to craft unique and delicious chocolate bars.

With wine everything starts in the vineyard, you need great grapes to make great wine. And then each harvest, called a vintage, is unique and its fruit needs to be handled differently. The grapes need to be picked at just the right moment. As with cacao, the grapes too need to be fermented. And then, depending on the style – for example white, red, sparkling, fortified etc. – they can be pressed, macerated, aged in barrel and blended before finally being put into a bottle. Throughout all these stages, art and science meld as the winemaker transforms this humble grape into unique and delicious wines.

When it comes to wine, most people are familiar with the concepts of vintage and terroir (the region the wine comes from). Most people would find it strange indeed to buy a bottle that didn’t specify, not just a country of origin (e.g. France), but also a region (such as Bordeaux or Cotes du Rhone).

In chocolate this idea has yet to reach the mainstream. At Cocoa Runners we pride ourselves that all our craft chocolate bars are single origin – or a recognised blend of cacaos (such as Fruition’s Dominican and Peruvian blend). One of the most remarkable examples of ‘terroir’ in chocolate is Marou. Samuel and Vincent, the French founders source all their cocoa beans, and make their bars in Vietnam. They have effectively divided the country into regions of ‘terroir’ each of which provides the beans for one of their dark bars. Simply tasting and comparing pieces their Dong Nai and Ba Ria is enough to show the huge impact bean origin has on taste.

Again with wine, most people will be able to tell you not simply whether they prefer red or white, but whether they favour Pinot Noir or Merlot. Cacao strains are far harder than grape varieties. The trees are naturally promiscuous, interbreeding very easily so that a single tree can have 6 or 7 different genetic strands with pods and beans of several different varieties.

This is an area of huge debate and research, with people going to huge lengths to assure genetic purity. Pascal Wirth and Niklaus Blumer of Idillio for instance genetically tests his beans. In the case of Original Beans’ Beni Wild Harvest, or Cacaosuyo’s Piura Select, the remote, isolation of the cacao crop helps to assure their ‘purity’. On the whole, we think there are many other factors than can influence a bar’s taste without delving into the complexities of cacao varietals and debates around ‘heirloom cacaos’. At the same time, if you compare the taste of  of Bonnat’s Madagascar Dark with its Madagascar Criollo the difference between various cacao strands is immediately apparent.

Another familiar point of reference when buying one is vintage. Every year, the unique conditions around every harvest subtly alter the profile of the grapes, making the wines some harvests (indicated by the vintage) far better or worse than others. Chocolate vintages is a concept that only starting to be explored by makers and growers, such as Duane Dove of the Roxborough Estate in Tobago. In most regions where cacao is grown, there are two harvests a year – one in the wet season one in the dry season (in some countries, such as Hawaii, the number of harvests is even higher) – which adds another layer of complexity.

As chocolate makers continue to innovate and experiment in their quest for better bars, new beans and even more exciting flavours we look forward to seeing what they do next!

Gather with your family to taste our delicious selection of craft chocolates from around the world, and learn about the background, tasting notes and history of each bar. It’s a fantastic and fun activity to get your chocolate knowledge rocking straight from your sofa.

How does it work?

PS: This box contains milk chocolates, i.e dairy.

Craft chocolate provides an amazing way to try something that not only tastes better, but it’s also better for you and better for the planet.  And with this pack, along with a virtual and video tastings, you’ll be able to experience this.  We’ve pulled together nine unique chocolates that will show you how different beans, fermentation, grinding and crafting styles impact flavour, intensity, mouthfeel, texture and taste.

Craft chocolate also provides you with a unique way to understand more about taste, flavour and mouthfeel. It literally helps you “refine your palate”. In the tutored tasting we’ll discuss different ways to understand the difference between taste and flavour (hint: flavour comes from your sense of smell, taste from a series of receptors on your tongue and in your mouth).  And we’ll also show you how to appreciate how flavour and taste develop like a “wave” with very different sensations during the initial, peak and then lingering stages of the chocolate melting.  To assist you here we’ve included a “flavour wave” developed with Professor Barry Smith (Director of the Institute of Philosophy at University of London and Co-director of  the Centre for the Study of the Senses), James Hoffmann (Founder of Square Mile and World Coffee Barista Champion) and Rebecca Palmer (Wine Buyer at Corney & Barrow)

During the virtual tastings we’ll also offer advise on how to read a chocolate label and what to look out for (hint: if there are ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise, be careful!  great chocolate is all about the beans … so just look for cocoa beans, sugar and (maybe) milk).  We will also explain the difference between single origin and single estate / single co-operation — and why this is important.

ONCE YOU’VE PURCHASED A BOX WE WILL SEND YOU A LINK TO OUR NEXT ZOOM TASTING

NOTE: this box contains 9 different chocolates; comprising seven full size bars and some taster squares.  It is designed for a family of 4+ people (up to 6-8).

Print-at-Home Instructions

(1) Online Tasting - Bars (2) Online Tasting - Instructions

Want to try our Milk only virtual tasting? Get your hands on a box here.

We have hosted over 100 Craft Chocolate Tastings!  A huge thanks for all your support, encouragement and kind words.

Through these tastings we’ve discovered there are some aspects of savouring craft chocolate that are a bit like learning to ride a bike. And what a great theme to reflect upon given that it’s Father’s Day next Sunday.

Learning to Ride a Bike

None of us are born knowing how to ride a bike.  It takes a bit of practice.  Training wheels (stabilisers) can help.  And falling off, with some embarrassment, is par for the course.  For most of us it’s an experience where we remember the good parts and acquire a fun and rewarding skill.

Learning to savour craft chocolate is similar. Even though almost everyone enjoys great craft chocolate, no one is born with an innate expertise (and distrust anyone who says they were born with a great palate).

None of us instinctively can articulate the tastes, flavours, textures and mouthfeels that we experience when we taste craft chocolate (or fine wine, coffee, tea, etc.).  We need some basic vocabulary so that we can describe the word on the tip of our tongue. Articulating is a vital step in evaluating and remembering. And then we need to practise (which with craft chocolate is normally great fun). 

It also helps if you can “interact” as you taste.  Sharing what you are experiencing makes it more interesting and stimulating.  But many of us are worried about not knowing what to say or, rather, saying the wrong thing.  And in public tastings it takes a lot of work to get people to speak up (and also sometimes shut up!).

The Advantages of Remote Tastings (and Joe Wicks)

Remote Tastings have a number of advantages to physical tastings.  First, we aren’t constrained by our “London Bubble”.  We can have lots of people attending from lots of places (at one recent tasting we had people from the US, South America and over 6 EU countries). They are more convenient for many customers (we do them at various times every Wednesday, and are happy to arrange ad-hoc tastings too for families, companies, etc.).

Remote tastings are also great at being partially, or fully, anonymous.  They avoid the fear of, for example, turning up to a gym spin class and being embarrassed about one’s fitness or clothing.  Think of it being a bit like Joe Wicks. We exercise together, but in the comfort and anonymity of our own homes.  We can learn some new moves and have fun.

Ideally you also want some interaction and some feedback (maybe more Peloton here than Joe Wicks). It helps to see what other people are experiencing too.

Our experience of all our face to face, and remote, Craft Chocolate Tastings has confirmed that feedback and interaction are really important. People just need to overcome their initial trepidation. Once you know a little bit, once you’ve tasted the magic of craft chocolate, everyone is intrigued.  And if you can start to articulate what you are enjoying and tasting it makes it even more fun.

So we now use a tool in our Virtual Tastings where you can describe what you are “sensing” in real time along with everyone else.  You do this remotely and anonymously.  No one needs to worry about saying the wrong thing.  No one needs to worry about not saying anything. But it is really interesting for everyone to see what everyone else is enjoying – and realising how different craft chocolates can be. 

The Craft Chocolate Great Wave

To provide a framework, and some vocabulary, we use the “Craft Chocolate Great Wave” that we developed with Professor Barry Smith, James Hoffman of Square Mile Coffee and Rebecca Palmer of Corney & Barrow Wines.  These three all have years of tasting experience.  And they are all very articulate and passionate, and have put in the hours to acquire this fluency. 

To extend the analogy, this “Craft Chocolate Tasting Wave” is sort of like training wheels on a bike.  It can help you describe those flavours and textures that are on the tip of your tongue.  And once you can articulate the flavours, textures and tastes you enjoy you can discover more of what you like, why these bars taste this way, and how to find more great bars.

More Tastings with Chocolate DJs

Lots of people who’ve attended our tastings have asked us for more tastings.  So we are now also rolling out a series of additional Remote Tastings with other friends of Craft Chocolate acting as “Chocolate DJs” with their playlists of favourite craft chocolate bars. 

By popular request we’ve another Tasting with Professor Barry Smith on the science of flavour, taste and texture.  Next up is another philosopher, Julian Baggini, who is about to publish a new book on that great foodie movie, Babette’s Feast.  And he, along with Spencer, will explore the interaction of chocolate over the ages with religion and philosophy on the 9th of July.  Then we’ve two “wine and chocolate” pairings; the first one with 67 Pall Mall on the 2nd July, and then another with Ruth Spivey (founder of Wine Car Boot) on the 23rd of July.

Similar to when we started with our original Zoom Tastings, we are still developing the format for these tastings.  The one constant is that we’ll be tasting 8-10 chocolates that you can purchase as a Tasting Kit, and that we’ll be discussing these – and much more – with the speaker on Zoom.  And all of these Tastings Kits and Sessions can be bought and reserved on our website – see here.

Fathers Day

As anyone who has email knows, it’s Father’s day next weekend.  So we’ve prepared a bunch of great craft chocolate offerings (see below and here). In addition we would like to encourage you, and any fathers, to join in one of our Virtual Tastings.

Wishing you all a safe and sane weekend.

Spencer, Simon, Lizzie and Harmony