The Blissful World of Belgian Chocolate

Every so often, we like to take a break from wine (okay, not really all that often!) and focus on other aspects of the good life—particularly aspects that have some sort of connection to wine.

Case in point: fine chocolates. (And what better day to be talking about chocolates than Halloween?)

You may recall from your childhood—or you may know in your role as a parent or grandparent—that Mary Poppins believed strongly that just a spoonful of sugar helped medicine go down.

Jean Neuhaus had perhaps an even better idea. Unlike the fictional nanny, Neuhaus was a real pharmacist, practicing his profession in the Belgium city of Brussels in the late 19th century. When filling prescriptions, he would add a layer of chocolate around the pills.


And that’s how Neuhaus came up with the concept of filled chocolates, which came to be known as pralines there and bonbons in America.

The original Neuhaus chocolate shop is long gone, but others have been opened in the suburbs of Brussels. Today, pralines are made by an estimated 800 chocolate makers in Belgium, more than half based in Brussels.

Crafting pralines has been likened to crafting fine wines. Just as a vintner is dependent upon well-ripened grapes, a praline maker needs top-quality cacao beans in order to stand out in the crowd—and quite a crowd of chocolatiers is in Brussels.

One way Laurent Gerbaud does that is to allow customers to make their own pralines in his shop—after he provides a demonstration that’s highlighted by sampling.

Chocolats Gerbaud is located near Brussels’ city center, so it gets plenty of traffic. The shop is known for pralines filled with fruits such as pears and apricots, as well as a wide array of nuts.

Like a good glass of wine, the flavor of a praline should linger on the palate for several seconds after it is consumed. At Neuhaus and Chocolats Gerbaud, there’s plenty of lingering flavor to love.

Posted in Vinesse Style
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