Honesty first: We were a little skeptical going in. We’re not fans of pairing wine and chocolate to begin with, but we never expected it to exceed our wildest fears.
The wine in question: Chocolate Shop Wine – The chocolate lover’s wine
Wine and chocolate, what a popular pairing! I’m too lazy for 2 ingredients though, can you combine them? I just want to toss the lot into my gaping maw and revel in the romance and allure of cupid’s big day.
And they did. Chocolate Shop is a red wine infused with chocolate flavors, taking the leg work out of pairing the two. It’s made in Walla Walla, with their main office in Seattle. At Wine Folly, we enjoy Washington wines, since we’re based in Seattle. We love nothing more than supporting and promoting regional wines that may not get the attention they deserve. But not this stuff. It’s not really even a wine; it just uses wine as a base. It comes across as an evil cauldron of opportunistic greed, blending reddish wine with what smells like tootsie roll essence. Watch and see what we mean.
So why didn’t that work out?
Every year around Valentine’s Day, wineries and chocolate shops everywhere feature wine and chocolate pairings. Why do they do this? I haven’t a goddamn clue. Probably to sell you wine and chocolate. Or to give you a date opportunity for your internet sweetheart. Wine and chocolate are both extremely strong, nuanced, powerhouse flavors that demand your attention. The idea behind a pairing is usually to either showcase the star (mild cheese and crackers with wine) or create some exciting synergy – like 5-spice BBQ pork with Zinfandel. Wine and chocolate tend to compete for some of the same taste buds, and both leave long-lingering aftertastes and mouth-coatings.
Can’t you make it work?
The sweetness in chocolate makes wine taste sour and in addition, our taste buds reject multiplying bitter flavors together (chocolate bitter added to red wine bitter tannins). There can be some favorable interactions between the two. A super mellow creamy chocolate like ganache goes excellently with a ruby port. The wine adds dark berry flavor into the mix and an interesting gravelly textural note. A salted chocolate caramel with an Italian Vin Santo Passito wine (dried grape wine) acts as a caramel multiplier and it’s fantastic.
Both of these examples were where the wine had a higher sweetness than the chocolate. I would also be inclined to try a mole sauce with a Shiraz. In this circumstance the focus would be more on the spices in the mole and the chocolate would be more of a background texture (fat).
Here are some pairings we have tried and will allow, but seriously people, just don’t do it.
Wine Folly-approved wine and chocolate pairings
Peanut butter cups – Ruby Port, LBV Port, Late Harvest Zinfandel
It tastes like XXX PB & J.
Milk chocolate – Muscat
Muscat adds a caramel character and makes the milk chocolate taste creamier)
Macadamia nuts with white chocolate – White Zinfandel
We know your mom loves white Zin! Gift opportunity! Still, the wine ends up tasting a little sour.
Dark chocolate – Late harvest Zinfandel, Pedro Ximenez
In an attempt to pick the sweetest sweet wines with the least amount of tannin)
White chocolate – Late Harvest Semillon or Auclese Riesling
Most foodies will ding me on recommending white chocolate, because it’s not real chocolate, but these pairings work great!