For some reason, people keep coming to me for advice in romantic matters at least tangentially related to booze. Since I'm behind the stick, I am apparently a relationship expert by default.
Never mind that I've been single for years.
I'm thankful that most people have figured out I'm not the one to ask for dating advice. They've instead turned to asking me what's a good drink to buy or make for their love.
My alcohol dispensation specialty is, as you may have surmised by now, making well-crafted cocktails. However, one cannot socially lubricate on martinis alone; there are beer and wine too, of course. Around mid-February, wine steals the spotlight as suitors attempt to woo their loves with something fancy and romantic.
Some friends of mine recently had what they thought was a brilliant idea. They were looking for a nice bottle of wine, when they spied bottles of chocolate wine. Chocolate is romantic. Wine is romantic. Get a bottle of chocolate wine and kill two birds with one stone! What could possibly go wrong?
I'll tell you what's wrong with the plan. Everything is wrong with it. Simply put, chocolate wine sucks.
First off, part of the sensual allure of chocolate is that it melts. It does that thanks to cocoa butter. Since cocoa butter is a fat, it doesn't dissolve in the alcohol or water of wine. This means that all you're left with for chocolate flavor is one-dimensional cocoa powder. Or worse, natural flavoring that only tastes reminiscent of chocolate.
The other part is the wine itself. If you examine a bottle of chocolate wine, you'll notice that the maker doesn't disclose the grape varietals they use, instead preferring to say that they used "fine red wine". In the case of a novelty product like this, that's indicative that they're using bottom of the barrel plonk that wouldn't be used for cheap boxed wine.
The final nail in the coffin is the actual pairing. Since chocolate has an intense flavor profile, it needs an intense wine to go with it. The wines used in chocolate wine are flat and weak, only there to give a boozy backdrop to the sugar and chocolate.
Chocolate and wine can be enjoyable together, but you're better off consuming them separately instead of trying to make an unnatural pairing happen. What kind of wine should you get? Something big and fruity like a Zinfandel is a great foil to rich chocolate, but if you really want to see what wine and chocolate can do together, break out the port.
Granted, considering that Valentine's Day is looming large on the calendar at this point, my advice might have come too late and you've already bought some. Hopefully you still have the receipt, along with the time to return the swill. It may be cliché, but go buy your love interest a really nice bottle of Champagne, box of chocolates be damned.