Caractère recently hosted a new event at its flagship store in Milan about the fascinating topic of chocolate. The event featured the author of a book which reveals some of the secrets about the food of the gods, its origins, how it is produced and the best wines to pair it with, providing us with the tools to distinguish good chocolate from the rest. For Rossana Bettini, journalist, lecturer in Taste Education and author of “È autentico cioccolato” (This is genuine chocolate), the important thing is to learn as much as you can and know how to choose, making well-informed decisions about what you buy and eat. The Mayans considered chocolate a magical elixir, scholars at Boston and University Universities say it makes you live longer. Chocolate is steeped in history and interesting facts and there is so much for us to discover. The book, prefaced by Oscar Farinetti and illustrated with beautiful photographs by Fabio De Visintini, reveals all the truths and secrets about chocolate, dealing with more than just the usual myths and legends. The presentation was followed by a tasting of chocolate by Chox of Trieste, one of the top chocolate producers and sellers. The journalist, Antonia Matarrese, met the author, Rossana Bettini, to talk about this fabulous food.

– How would you describe your relationship with chocolate?
To tell you the truth, my relationship with chocolate is rather funny. When I was little, I didn’t like it and I often wondered why I didn’t love something that everyone else so obviously did. I suppose you could say mine was a reverse journey. I kept trying it, but it did nothing for me until I tasted a very special kind of chocolate. I don’t know what it was, I was just given it and I discovered it was Chuao, a variety of Criollo. That was the beginning of my love affair with chocolate. Time passed, I got my Masters in Sensory Education, I began lecturing in Taste Education, I taught sommeliers and reached the highest level a teacher can. I decided to combine my passion for teaching with this new passion for chocolate and, after my experiences with wine and oil, I threw myself into this project.
– What is the relationship between wine and chocolate?
The relationship between wine and chocolate was invented by Gino Veronelli, he is the one who came up with this new pairing. Up to ten or fifteen years ago, people thought chocolate went best with spirits. Then, gradually, thanks to our knowledge of wine, as both a source of pleasure and a culture, we discovered wines which go really well with chocolate. It always depends on the cocoa mass in the chocolate, however. A serious product, with high cocoa mass, needs a very dignified wine. You must always keep this balance in mind, so the wine does not overwhelm the chocolate and the chocolate, when eaten for a long time, does not dim our papillae to the extent they do not recognise a great wine.
– We are surrounded by beautiful photos taken by Fabio De Visintini which illustrate the book “È autentico cioccolato”. These images of cocoa fruits reflect the colours of the Caractère collection, and your look matches them too, with its lovely shades of green, yellow and orange. Here we are in a boutique belonging to an Italian fashion brand, so we’d like to know: what is your relationship with fashion?
Well, just look at me, I’m Caractère from head to toe! I love fashion, I always have, ever since I was a little girl. I may not have liked chocolate, but I was crazy about fashion. I used to save up the money my Mum gave me for snacks and would secretly buy high-heeled shoes which weren’t officially “allowed” at my age. Especially by my father. I think the book looks great next to this collection, in this environment. As people have said, it is velvety to the touch. And the pictures by Fabio De Visintini, which just look stunning, aren’t only pictures of cocoa. They capture different moments, from cultivation to the brightly coloured houses where the campesinos, the cocoa farmers, live. Someone said it is an ethical and aesthetical book because it deals with chocolate that has been honestly produced and the sustainability of cocoa. And it’s a beautiful book to look at too.
– One chapter in the book is dedicated to the three “s” which sum up chocolate. Can you explain what they mean?
The three “s” are a game. It’s always fun to find something special you can put into a couple of concise words, like in this case “sapore” (taste), “salute” (health) and “sentimento” (feelings). Taste because you really need to know what you’re doing when you taste good chocolate, so I always tell my friends and readers – chocolate consumers – that it is good to give your senses a workout, just as we would work out our muscles. It means finding places that sell good chocolate which should be genetically pure and perfect. There are two kinds of cocoa in nature, Forastero (90 per cent of the world’s production), Criollo (0.001 per cent) and a combination of the two, Trinitario. Forastero is not good for you and I say that even though I know plenty of people will turn their nose up at it. The chapter in the book about taste, health and feelings concludes with a warning: be aware of the organoleptic character of the chocolate you are trying. When you eat chocolate that does not convince you, it means it’s not good quality, it’s not genuine chocolate. As regards our health, chocolate is good for us, it doesn’t make us fat and it actually helps control hunger pangs. The important thing is not to eat it in the evening, not to gorge on it before you go to bed because, as it can have a stimulant, energising and – some say – aphrodisiacal effect, it could disturb your sleep. And as for feelings, I’ll get straight to the point and ask: would you ever give anyone you love chocolate that wasn’t genuine?