Chocolate Wine

It was a quiet night at Martin Bros. when Liz walked in with a bottle in her hand. She handed it to me and said, “Try this.”

One look at the label and I already knew. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Try it, it’s good. Maybe we can sell a few bottles.”

It was a chocolate wine. Not a wine, like Brachetto d’Aqui, that complements a chocolate dessert, or a liqueur, like Godiva makes, flavored with the stuff…no, this was a wine, cabernet sauvignon I believe, in a wine bottle with a cork, infused with chocolate. It was a muddy red in the glass, and the nose was pure Hershey’s.

“Don’t make a face like that,” Liz egged me on, “taste it.” As hard as it was to put the glass to my lips, I took a sip. It tasted exactly the way it smelled.

I shook my head. “Don’t do it.” It was a plea for all winemakers everywhere; you don’t add flavoring to the wine. True, vermouth is adulterated with herbs, and there are a large number of digestives, mostly Italian, with who knows what leaves, sticks and berries mixed in, but we do not call them wine.

My colleague, Anthony, who works for a major wine distributor by day, explained that chocolate wine was now a category. He’d been at a meeting recently where they’d tasted the stuff and he couldn’t get the color or flavor out of his glass. “I washed it twice and I still smelled the chocolate. After that, the tasting was over for me.”

By all means, taste around promiscuously. Every bottle has something to enjoy, and something to teach us, even if it is only that we don’t like a particular varietal, vintage or style. Go ahead, add a spritz of seltzer, or an ice cube or two, should the occasion warrant, but let’s draw the line there. As for chocolate wine, skip it.

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