Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The New Dessert Wine Darlings - Chocolate Wine

The month of February just seems to lend itself to talk about chocolate and wine, (See last Wednesday’s post for pairing ideas.) But what about chocolate wine? 

Chocolate Dessert Wines
To start off with, yes, it is a wine, (if it’s crafted in the port-style.) Chocolate wine is designated as a dessert wine because of its sweetness and alcohol content.  Think of a Port or Sherry and you have an idea how sweet we’re talking.  While fairly new on the wine scene, chocolate wine has been available at small wineries for several years.  When ChocoVine released it’s original dessert wine, it became a big hit with the ladies, showing up at GNO (Girls Night Out) events all over the country.  But as we enjoyed the novelty of a chocolate wine, many of us still wanted a balanced wine, one with a smooth flavor but without a chemical aftertaste. 

Now, chocolate wines are claiming the dessert wine spotlight – at least around holidays where chocolate is a main ingredient, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas.

Styles of Chocolate Wine
There are two types of chocolate wine – the wine-based, port-style that is infused with rich, dark chocolate, and has a dark red color.  And there is also the chocolate and cream version with just a bit of wine added for fortification, making it something like an adult milk shake.

Port-Style Chocolate Wines

The port-style wines are made just like a port wine but chocolate is added as an emulsifying agent.  There are several port-style options including:

Rosenblum Cellars of California, offers Desiree, a chocolate dessert wine crafted from Zinfandel, Syrah and Touriga Nacional red grapes. The wine is fortified with grape brandy and made in the Tawny Port style. The rich chocolate comes from Wisconsin. Prevalent flavors include chocolate, coconut and vanilla.  A 375ml bottle sells for $18 and has an alcohol content of 18%.

Black Mesa Winery’s Black Beauty is a product of New Mexico.  It is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel grapes instilled with artificial chocolate flavors.  The main flavors you taste are chocolate and black cherries.  It sells for $17 for a 375ml bottle and has an alcohol content of 12.5%

Precept Wine Company of Seattle makes Chocolate Shop Red.  It contains a proprietary blend of red vinifera grapes, blended with dark chocolate, and a touch of oak.  The flavor has been described as a hit of Hershey’s syrup.  Chocolate Shop now offers two more chocolate wines in Crème de Cocoa and Chocolate Strawberry.  Alcohol content is 12.5% and they retail for around $11 for a 375ml bottle.

Coco Rosso, also made by Precept Wine of Seattle, is a blend of vinifera red wine grapes with natural dark chocolate and a trace of oak.  The flavors revolve around chocolate and cherry.  With an alcohol content of 11.5%, a 375ml bottle retails for around $11.00.
And yet another Precept Wine product, The Chocolate Cellar is also crafted from red vinifera grapes infused with dark chocolate, pulling out the flavors of candied cherries and a deep, dark chocolate. It sells for around $12.

Cream-Based Wines
Cream and chocolate concoctions have just a dash of wine/brandy added to fortify them. Since real cream is used, you will need to  ‘Shake well before serving.’

Opici Wines produces Cocoa di Vine, which is crafted from white grapes, Moscato, Pedro Ximenez and Torrontes from Argentina. The cocoa beans are also from South America, and the cream is from Wisconsin.  The main flavors are chocolate, vanilla and caramel.  The alcohol content is 14% and the 750ml bottle sells for $12.00 retail. Opici Wines has also unveiled Chocolate Cherry and Chocolate Expresso versions. They are distributed nationally.

Cocoa Vino is described as “a marriage of red wine, milk chocolate and cream.” Crafted by Temperance Distilling Company in Michigan, the 750ml bottle sells for $12 and has an alcohol content of 14%.  Cocoa Vino is also available in a Mint and a Yumberry(?) version.

The current ruler of the chocolate wine market is De Kuyper’s ChocoVine.  It is marketed as a fine French Cabernet combined with Dutch chocolate and cream. ChocoVine also offers a Raspberry Chocolate wine, along with an Expresso version and, new this year, Whipped Cream with vanilla and Dutch chocolate.  All are available nationwide in 750ml bottles, with 14% alcohol. All four retail for around $10.00.  De Kuyper expects to ship more than a million cases in 2012.

Other Chocolate Wines
Although still in its infancy, the chocolate dessert wine market is already changing it up a bit with different chocolate options.

Shallon Winery in Astoria, Oregon offers a Chocolate Orange wine.  Paul van der Veldtl, the winemaker, says it is made from “six rich chocolates from four countries, with no artificial flavorings or materials.”   It retails for $32 for a 375ml bottle and is available only by ordering from the winery.

De Kuyper, maker of ChocoVine, will release a new fruit cream-based wine this spring called VineSmoothie.  This dessert wine is made from French Chardonnay and cream, with a fruit base, either strawberry, peach, berry or pineapple coconut.  The wine is 14% alcohol and will retail for around $10 when it hits store shelves in April.

Also up and coming this year, Chocolate Valley Vines from White Rock Distilleries, a Gallo product called ChocolatRouge, and Chocolais to be unveiled in April at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. All three are cream-based chocolate dessert wines.

Pairing Suggestions

So what do you pair with these sweet chocolate wines?  It seems that cookies, cakes and ice cream are the top three choices. (I immediately thought that Danish butter cookies seemed like a good match with all of that Dutch chocolate.)  And, I’ve heard rumors that chocolate wine with chocolate is, well, amazing! 

Your Mission – 
Find some chocolate wines.

Hold a weekend tasting with friends.

Pair the wines with whatever occurs to you as a good match,

And let us know what you thought of these new dessert wine darlings!


~ Joy