With Easter just around the corner, many people around the world are preparing to enjoy a feast of chocolate eggs in celebration of the holiday. The tradition has existed for as long as anybody currently alive can remember but, compared to other Easter traditions, it is actually a fairly new introduction.
Even newer is the idea of combining Easter eggs with a variety of wines in order to get the most out of the experience. As you would expect, dessert wines like Port are often the drink of choice when doing this, but before we broach that subject let’s take a more in-depth look into the origins of the chocolate Easter egg.
While the practice of painting Easter eggs has existed for centuries, the idea of a chocolate egg as a treat, the chocolate egg dates back to the early 19th century, with its roots being in Europe. Back then, these eggs were fairly simply and small. They would be wrapped in standard paper and delivered to anybody who desired one, which is a far cry from the colourful foil that we usually associate with chocolate eggs in the modern day.
It was Germany and France who truly began to popularise this new form of confectionary, which had only recently become possible with the advent of chocolate that could actually be eaten. The early eggs were also not hollow, as we know them to be now, due to the inability to mould the chocolate in such a precise manner. Instead, they would simply be egg shaped blocks of chocolate, which may have delighted people even more than the hollow eggs that came later. Those became possible as moulds began to improve, with the first hollow eggs being made very slowly through a process known as pasting.
John Cadbury, of the famous chocolate company of the same name, began importing some of the techniques that were being used in France to the UK, creating his first ‘French eating chocolate’ in 1842. However, it took another thirty years or so before the company created its very first Easter egg. The generally accepted theory is that John was unsatisfied with the quality of the continental chocolate that was being used to make the eggs in France and Germany at the time, though others believe that he was focused on growing his business in other areas and did not see the confection as being a cost-effective part of his business due to the difficulty of getting chocolate to flow into the moulds.
Despite this, it was a discovery made by the Cadbury Brothers in 1866 that played a large part in the development of the Easter egg as we know it in its current form. Together that introduced a pure cocoa using the methods created by Dutch inventor Van Houten in 1828 to separate the cocoa butter from the bean. While their intention was obviously to secure a purer form of cocoa, the Cadbury Brothers found that the cocoa butter that they separated during the process was the key to making moulded chocolate, as it allowed the cocoa to take on a different texture that could be shaped as they saw fit. The process was used in the development of a number of fine chocolates and, eventually, the creation of what would become modern Easter eggs.
The first Cadbury’s chocolate eggs were made using ‘dark’ chocolate and featured a smooth surface that was only possible due to their new moulding processes. Decorations began making an appearance later on, though the primitive nature of the moulds used meant that chocolate piping and marzipan were often used for this purpose.
The business of Easter eggs proved to be extremely popular, to the point where Cadbury offered 19 different types of egg as part of its Cadbury Brothers Easter list by 1893. Richard Cadbury’s artistic skill came to the fore during this period, as he made use of designs based on French, German and Dutch originals to appeal to the Victorian era consumers. For example, the ‘Crocodile’ finish that is used to break up the chocolate into a distinct pattern and cover imperfections is still used by many Easter egg manufacturers to this day.
This period established that the Easter egg could be a commercial success, but it was not until Cadbury introduced the Dairy Milk chocolate bar in 1905 that the popularity of Easter eggs exploded. The popularity of the bar led to eggs being made using the same form of chocolate, making them more accessible to a wider palette in the process. In fact, it was the influence of this innovation that led to milk chocolate being used for the majority of Easter eggs in the present day.
Now firmly entrenched in modern culture, the Easter egg is a treat that children, and many adults, look forward to every year. For the adults, there are few greater joys than pairing such a sweet confection with a fine wine.
Here we will look at some great wines that can be paired with your chocolate eggs, so you get the most out of the experience.
Moscato d’Asti – If you have decided to forgo tradition and opted for an Easter egg made using white chocolate, a nice Moscato d’Asti acts as the perfect accompaniment, as it will not overpower the chocolate.
Aged Vintage Port – Port has long been favoured as a dessert wine, so it usually goes well with practically any type of chocolate egg. However, it is perhaps best combined with the classic milk chocolate variety, as the richness of the port will complement the richness of the chocolate perfectly.
Tawny Port – This type of wine offers something a little different to its vintage cousin and is best consumed alongside the richer eggs. Any egg that makes use of caramel can be combined with this wine to great effect.
Chinato – We may not think of Chinato as being a wine that goes particularly well with chocolate, but it makes for a surprisingly effective pairing when combined with dark chocolate, so it is worth a try of you are feeling experimental.