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Wine and Chocolate: A Terrible Pairing?

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Wine and Chocolate: A Terrible Pair?
Yakima Wine Glasses
Wine and chocolate seem like natural couple. This is an impression that gains strength in the middle of the month of February, when Valentine’s Day inspires the en masse purchase of chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, and romance is enhanced with generous wine pours.

But chocolate and wine are not a natural pair.

And some say their relationship shouldn't work at all. The problem with wine and chocolate pairings can be summed up with a romantic cliché – opposites attract – and its corollary: similarity is boring, bordering on unpleasant.

As is summed up in this excellent article, it’s all about the chemistry: wine, especially red, and chocolate, especially dark, are both are rich in polyphenols (which tastes bitter and is also what makes both of them heart healthy) both have tannins (which dry out your mouth) and both are acidic.

In other words, wine and chocolate both tend to give you a sour, bitter taste in your mouth. And while the tannins in both shouldn’t accumulate – similar flavors eventually cancel each other out – you don’t get any of the magic complementing effect that you have when you have a good beverage and food pairing, and you can tend to lose the flavor subtleties in both.

Like a couple in an unhealthy relationship, wine and chocolate can reinforce the worst qualities in one another.

Further complicating the situation, chocolate has more sugar than wine and is most often if not always sweeter, which is why even a perfectly lovely accompanying glass of wine will taste sour in comparison to a sweet chocolate nibble. On the other hand, this is also why very sweet wines – ice wines, ports – are often paired with desserts, especially chocolate. Although this combination sounds like it would be cloyingly sweet, the sugar in both cancel each other out in the mouth. (Although this effect does not extend to the calories, alas.)

All is not lost, because chocolate also has fat, which coats the tongue and is a good counterbalance to the puckering, bittering effects of both polyphenols and tannins. For advice on how to pair wine and chocolate, check out About.com Wine Guide’s primer on pairing chocolate and wine.

Or seek out an in-person consultation on this very serious culinary situation.

There’s no better event on the culinary calendar for that than Yakima Valley’s annual Red Wine & Chocolate weekend, set for February 16th to 17th, 2013. This region, which includes Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and Red Mountain, is well known for high quality red wine, takes them quite seriously, and won’t just go throwing Hershey’s chocolate bars down next to your wine glass. For instance, Agate Field Winery will be pairing its wines with dark chocolate brownies, Severino Cellars will be pairing a port with dark chocolate fudge, Tapteil Vineyard Winery will be pairing with local Chukar chocolate-covered cherries.

And since chocolate is often -- but not always -- a sweet ingredient, Kitzke Cellars will be pairing with a dark chocolate and meat chili, Kestrel is pairing a dark chocolate pasta tossed in a creamy bacon alfredo, Desert Wind will host its annual Death by Chocolate Wine Dinner on February 16, 2013, a multi-course situation where chocolate will be used in savory and sweet throughout the meal. (Advance reservations are required.)

To make the most of the weekend, purchase a Premier Pass, either in advance for $30 before February 11th, or you can purchase the pass at participating wineries on the weekend of the event for $35. Bring your own wineglass, or purchase one at the first winery you hit because unlike most events of this kind, this event will not include a wine glass.

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