Chocolate Block Wine: can wine really taste like chocolate?
You can’t talk about the Chocolate block without first knowing something about where it comes from. Why? This is integral to the wine’s production as the blend is tweaked a little every year to reflect the growing season and vintage to the full. No two Chocolate Blocks are quite the same. The Boekenhoutskloof winery (try saying that after a few) is based in South Africa’s imaginatively named Coastal region, with most of their vineyards in the Franschhoek and Swartland districts. The grapes for the Chocolate Block come from the Swartland area which is known for warm weather and premium wine. The Chocolate Block is no exception.
The actual winemaking behind this wine is kept very secret, but they do share a few tidbits from oak ageing for each parcel of grapes used and the exacting percentages of the blend. As an example, the only difference between the 2020 and 2021 vintage was a 1% difference between Syrah going up, and Grenache going down. Whatever the percentage, you can always guarantee that they will prioritise grapes known for heftier wines and even a tiny bit of the white grape viognier goes into the blend, which adds a little floral complexity and body. In the most recent 2021 vintage, a mixture of Syrah (74%), Grenache (10%), Cinsault (8%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%) and Viognier (1%) made up the wine. This was definitely one of the riper vintages and with great ageing potential too.
So how does it taste? Of course, with each vintage crafted to suit the style and climate of the season, there is some variation, but one flavour should be obvious. Chocolate! It is rich and velvety, like a top quality Monctezuma or Lindt bar. Cacao-powdery tannins further complement this effect and really drive the cocoa bean out. Dark fruit notes of bramble and blackberry are often complemented by herbal aromas of lavender and liquorice and a few years of age can add a leathery, meaty character to the mix.
The man behind the Chocolate Block
Marc Kent began his career in the restaurant trade where he developed his nose for wine. A huge advocate for Syrah, he has helped bring the grape known for its French Hermitage and other Northern Rhone appellations back to a modern appeal.
Now the focus of his winery is very much on conservation, as global warming has begun to slowly change the flavour profiles of wines around the world due to shifting conditions. Foreign species are being removed and replanted with fauna native to the region. They even have their own unique species, a type of heather known as Erica Lerouxiae.
It is worth scouting out some of Marc’s other wines. The world famous Boekenhoutskloof Syrah which revolutionised the grape in South Africa is certain to delight lovers of Rhone wines. The premium Cabernet can give Bordeaux a run for its money too. On the more pocket friendly side you’ll find some familiar names such as Porcupine Ridge and The Wolftrap which offer great value for someone looking to delve into the South African wine scene (and likely stay too once tried).
Try these highlights too:
Wolftrap Syrah – Syrah, blended with Mouvedre and Viognier creates a smooth and structured wine. It has smoky elements and a rich depth to it
Wolftrap Grenache Blanc – Grenache Blanc is a variety that does well in hot conditions and produces rich wines. This one has aromas of apple and lemon, followed by vibrant gooseberry, peach and an undercurrent of spices.
Porcupine Ridge Syrah – Another great Syrah wine from him. It is full of aromatic notes of violets and spice which are complemented by fruit flavours of black cherries giving it a warm depth.
Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc – A really good example of fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc, with leafy blackcurrant notes to give the wine a herbaceous edge
This blog was written by our wine expert, David Andrews. Read his Instagram blog @oinosattheoikos
Updated 20th July 2023