The real wine to drink with chocolate is . . . chocolate wine!
Suddenly, chocolate-wine lovers (and they are legion) have more than a dozen to choose from, says Wine Adviser columnist Paul Gregutt.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Chocolate Shop Chocolate Red Wine; $15
This wine's yummy, "come hither" aromas are virtually irresistible. The lush chocolate flavor, wrapped in pretty red fruits and highlighted with a hint of herb and earth, leads you through a long, silky finish. It makes any day a happy Valentine's Day. (Distributed by Odom-Southern)
WITH VALENTINE'S Day just ahead, wine writers inevitably crank out the "what wine to drink with chocolate" column. Over the years I've launched a few broadsides at the flawed notion that cabernets or other dry red wines pair well with chocolate. I've suggested that sweet reds, especially tawny ports, can do the trick, though neither side (port nor chocolate) benefits from the presence of the other. Sweet sherry can work, and even a good Champagne. Last year I brought up the idea that amaro — a type of Italian digestif — was actually the best match I'd yet found, and it was.
Until now. Here is the ultimate answer to the question of what wine to drink with chocolate: Chocolate wine!
I first had chocolate wine about 20 years ago, during a visit to Shallon Winery in Astoria. There, winemaker Paul van der Veldt was making (and continues to make; see his website at www.shallon.com/chocwine.htm) such novelty wines as Lemon Meringue Pie, Cran du Lait and Chocolate-Orange. Who could have imagined that in 2011 chocolate wines would become one of the hottest wine trends of the new century?
I confess that I quickly buttonholed the notion of chocolate wine as a novelty item. The very term seems somehow gimmicky. But suddenly, chocolate-wine lovers (and they are legion) have more than a dozen to choose from. I tasted through a wide assortment of locally available chocolate wines, most of them produced by Precept Wine company, and came away convinced that this is not only a legitimate new category, it is a game-changer.
There are two basic styles of chocolate wines: those that are, in fact, wine-based and those that are cream-based. The cream-based wines are not actually wines at all, though they may have a splash of wine in them. They occupy a strange niche that only the TTB (the federal agency that regulates alcohol) could devise, which includes all nonstandard wine products.
The best known of these cream-based products is ChocoVine, which tastes just like chocolate milk with a splash of brandy. It sells for about $12 and comes in four flavors: Original, Whipped Cream, Espresso and Raspberry, all with the same richly decadent flavor as more potent liqueurs such as Bailey's Irish Cream.
Far more interesting are the chocolate wines that are truly made from wine, with chocolate extract and sometimes fruit flavors added. Precept offers a half dozen examples, most priced between $12 and $15; each unique and all well-made. Most have alcohol around 12.5 percent.
Red Decadence carries a hint of chocolate in the nose, and blends light red berry wine flavors with a smooth, lively palate that artfully mixes hints of earth and herb with the dark-chocolate extract.
Chocolate Shop sports the prettiest label, and is my Pick of the Week.
The Chocolate Cellar includes some caramel flavoring along with the chocolate, and has a silky coffee and toffee character, very appealing.
Confectioner's Chocolate ramps the sugar up to 10 percent, and is the least expensive wine in the lineup (around $10). The plain label hides a most interesting wine with spiced cherry fruit and a finishing lick of cinnamon.
Red Decadence Raspberry and Chocolate Shop Strawberry are intensely fruity, with the taste of really yummy truffles.
These are excellent dessert wines, for sure. Serve them with the darkest chocolate, at least 70 percent cacao, the higher the better. They lend themselves easily to a variety of cocktails, cooking (think molé), or simply mixed with sparkling water and a twist of lime.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.