"So tell me," an old school friend asked, "if the demand for chocolate is so high, why are cocoa farmers so poor?"
We were sitting in the local pub, just days after I returned from a trip to the Ivory Coast, filming a CNN documentary about child labor and poverty in the chocolate industry.
Two years after CNN's Freedom Project exposed Chocolate's Child Slaves, it was time to return to the cocoa plantations to unwrap the chocolate supply chain, to investigate what progress has been made to stop child labor and to explore how farmers can get more money for their beans.
A World Food Programme aid director on the ground in Syria described to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday the desperate situation of civilians in war-ravaged Homs – something he said he had “never seen” before in his career.
“Nobody is able to actually feed themselves, feed their children, feed their families, with anything but the weed, the grass that they can pick on the side of the curb and what little that they can eke out from what they’ve saved over time,” Matthew Hollingworth, Syria director for the World Food Programme, said on the phone from Homs.
Chocolate is the "food of the gods,” a sweet treat for many across the world, and a booming industry worth an estimated $110 billion a year. But as we unwrap a favorite bar or tuck into a truffle, how many of us take the time to think about where it came from, and who helped in its transformation from the humble cocoa bean?
Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Sometimes it’s worthwhile taking the classic approach. If you’re a cowboy, skip saddling up an emu—just ride a dang horse. If you are a lion, do not attempt to browse the tender shoots of the mokukutu bush—just chomp the neck of a zebra and have done with it.
Similarly, when Valentine’s Day comes along, why try to wow your honey with some oddball concoction when bubbly works so well?
For more affordable wines in a similar mode (i.e., made the same way, and with the same basic grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) look to California sparkling wines. There are many good, affordable choices in the $20 to $25 zone.
And if bargains are what you’re after, both Prosecco (from Italy) and cava (from Spain) produce terrific sparkling wines in the under-$20 price range—possibly not the price point to pop the question with, but good value if your evening is going to involve drowning the sorrows of a gang of embittered single friends.
Here, some excellent possibilities: