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Wine and Food Wednesday
Red Wine and Chocolate—-Irreconcilable Differences

By Stephen Eliot

Dry red wine and chocolate; it is a marriage that rarely succeeds, and it can be downright ugly at times. It has always struck me as more than a little ironic that the union of the two is annually touted as an appropriate way to celebrate February’s soon-to-arrive holiday of affection. “Irreconcilable differences” is the phrase that immediately leaps to mind, and over the years I have encountered enough bizarre recipes and recommendations that I wonder whether poor old Saint Valentine might have actually chosen martyrdom if faced with one more red wine and chocolate pairing.

Now, there are people and palates that I very much respect who apparently enjoy red wine and chocolate, and I have come over time to suspect that just maybe it is something genetic, that there is a certain kink in the DNA spiral that says some will be inspired and enthralled by the combination and others will loathe it. There seems to be no middle ground, no lukewarm endorsements and no half-hearted dismissals, and, while I generally find little joy in the match, a couple of simple guidelines will go a long way to at least avoiding disaster.

The problem, I think, is less the chocolate itself but lies instead with the sweetness that inevitably accompanies it. There has been an occasional savory dish that incorporates chocolate that I have found to be very palatable with a dry red, but when sweetness appears on the plate, the wine with which it is served should be a bit sweeter. If not, it is striking just how sour the wine will seem to be. The astringent, mouth-drying pucker of tannic red wines is amplified by sweeter foods to the point that those tannins dominate everything else, and I have yet to make my way through a Cabernet-accompanied, chocolaty dessert course with anything approaching satisfaction. There is a host of sweeter red wines, ranging from fortified Ports to sundry late-harvest efforts that are charged with residual sugar that will do the trick, but most dry ones are just trouble waiting to happen. Those adventurous souls who are still undeterred would do best to opt for lower-tannin bottlings such as Merlot and Zinfandel, and, in fact, very ripe examples of the latter are often marked by a certain chocolaty streak themselves.

I plan on pouring a fine old Cabernet Sauvignon for dinner with the one that I love this Valentine’s evening, but it will not be with chocolate and it will not be for dessert. It will be poured alongside the likes of a medium-rare chateaubriand, a thick cut of prime rib or perhaps a slowly braised short rib...just right where it belongs.


The End is Near!
Posted on:2/9/2011 8:49:12 AM

California wineries producing Cabernet have proposed matching their slow-selling Cabernets with Chocolate since they started making candy-like wines a few decades ago.  It is a proposal we see with greater frequency these days, as this notion coincides with slows sales. 

You'll rarely find a Chocolate maker suggesting their "artistry" be consumed with Cabernet, as they seem to have more sense than desperate vintners.

Pairing dry red wine with Chocolate is one indication that the end of civilization, as we've known it, is near.


The End
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:2/9/2011 10:04:31 AM

How does this suggestion compare as a sign of the end of civilization relative to the retirement of Robert Parker?

The End
Posted on:2/9/2011 12:58:02 PM

Parker's retirement is simply an "End of an Error."

Pairing Cabernet with Chocolate is the beginning of another.


No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:2/10/2011 8:38:18 AM

As in all subjects: there are exceptions, and those who say "never" are as equally blind as those who say "always and without doubt."

I'm reminded of dozens of bad red wine and chocolate pairings--I'm also reminded of about six that truly shined. But I refuse to discuss it with those whose minds are made up ;)


Not for me
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:2/14/2011 10:44:10 AM

I say this as a non chocolate lover but I have never found that chocolate and dry red wine does anything good to the wine. Can make the chocolate taste sweeter but for the most part it just kind of robs the wine of any sweetness and clobers the fruit. I trust Thomas so I'm sure there are some pairing that will work, just not sure I wish to plow through a bunch of crappy ones to find them. That being said when we were looking to pack the house for one of our slower tasting weeks, well we put on a chocolate and red wine pairing and the people turned out and were pretty damn happy. Not for me the whole chocolate and wine thing but, well some people simply love the idea enough that it works for them.

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:2/16/2011 5:54:00 AM


One of the "tricks" is to use bitter chocolate--80 to 90% cacao.

You take a chocolate like the above and pair it with, say, a raspberry-like Zinfandel with low tannin/acidity and the pairing can work.

I mean, how many people love chocolate-covered fruit flavors?

Then again, I remember a particular tasting when a wine seemed to just love being with the high cacao chocolate. (I believe it was a 1999 Pauillac, Chateau Fonbadet--or was it a St Estephe??? The tow were in the atsting, and I cannot remember which one worked best.) It was ten years ago!


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