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What Wine Goes With Chocolate?

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I recently sat next to a woman who, when presented with dessert, deeply moaned, “I just love Cabernet and chocolate.” She then took a deep taste of wine and matched it with a taste of the chocolate mousse she’d been served.

The look on her face was, well, not as ecstatic as the expectation had been. In fact, she grimaced.

“Something must be wrong with the wine,” she muttered.

Nope. Nothing was wrong with the wine. It was fine before she tasted the dessert, and it was fine after.

It was just that Cabernet Sauvignon does not go with chocolate, despite what she and many of you have long been told.


Because the wine you drink has to be sweeter than the food you eat. It’s that simple. Put a dry wine, like most Cabernet Sauvignons, up against a sweet dessert, and the ripe fruit flavors in the wine that you had enjoyed only moments ago have become sour, shrill and acrid.

Sugar can do that.

Still, some are promulgating the marriage of Cab and chocolate, despite it being headed straight for divorce court. One chocolate company announces that it’s product is “specially formulated to complement wine. Using a blend based on the best chocolate from Ghana … ” It even recommends you eat this chocolate with “Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Barolo. … The pur cacao complements and pairs well with the tannins of a full-bodied red wine.”

Don’t believe everything you read. This 70-percent chocolate is far sweeter than that Bordeaux, and pairing the two would be the culinary equivalent of a train wreck.

There are a few red wines that do go with chocolate.

Take Banyuls, please. This is a dessert wine from the Pyrenees region in the southwest of France. It’s largely made from Grenache, but other grapes, including some whites, can be used. The flavors that arise from the glass are often vanilla, cinnamon and even a touch of cocoa powder, certainly perfect for flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate-dipped strawberries, brownies, chocolate chip cookies or chocolate body lotion.

Banyuls, again, is a dessert wine, and it should be drunk in smaller portions than the wine you’d drink with dinner. It’s that sweet, and it’s often fortified, so check the alcohol content before pouring.

Prices range from the high teens on up the scale. Not a great many make into the San Antonio market, so ask the wine stewards at your favorite specialty shop for a recommendation.

Another wine made for chocolate is the Banfi’s Rosa Regale ($25), a sparkling wine with a seductive red hue. Even people who only drink dry wines have been known to enjoy a glass of this. At this time of year, you can often find the Rosa Regale in premium supermarkets as well as fine wine shops.

So, save the Cabernet Sauvignon for a steak or for enjoying by itself. And grab something else to go with chocolate this Valentine’s Day.

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