Have you ever heard the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees?” If you would have asked the Mayans and the Aztecs back in 250 A.D., they would have said. “Yes, it does!” The cocoa bean was their form of currency, and only the upper class could afford to drink their money. What they discovered is what we still love about chocolate today; its perceived ability to increase stamina, endurance, mood, romantic arousals… LUST!
Does money buy love, though? Chaucer’s 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules, linked romantic love with St. Valentine. The world would have to wait until 1837, with the reign of Queen Victoria, before chocolate was connected to Cupid’s decadent gifts. The commercialization of chocolate started as machine manufacturing improvements were developed. In 1861, Richard Cadbury pioneered heart-shaped boxes. In 1907, Milton Hershey manufactured tear-dropped shaped chocolates “kisses,” so named by the sound of the machine dropping the chocolate on the belt. In the 1920s, Russell Stover sold heart-shaped boxes of chocolate all over the Midwest. Chocolate was in the hands of the masses and was no longer the luxury item it once was. Even still, that doesn’t mean we crave it less.
So why not give in to your chocolate desires and pair them with your wine? You would think that the sum of chocolate and wine would be more euphoric together, rather than apart, right? After all wine and chocolate are both high in flavonoids and tannins. Flavonoids are antioxidants that promote several beneficial health effects, along with providing vivid colors in fruits. Tannins are polymeric phenolics, which have the ability to precipitate proteins. Tannins contribute to the textural richness of wine and chocolate. They bind to your saliva and cause your mouth to dry up and feel rough. The roughness can be translated as bitterness.
But pairing wine and chocolate can be tricky for the same reasons. Bitterness in wine increases bitterness in food. So as to not have an unhappy first date, consider that the sweetness in the chocolate will increase the perception of bitterness, astringency, acid, and warming effect of the wine.
I give you this thought even though we are nowhere near the month of February and Valentine’s Day. As the cooling fall approaches, I am drawn back to big, bold red wine like Zinfandel, more particularly to 2019 Carol Shelton Monga Zinfandel Cucamonga Valley California, with its deep, black cherry fruit, dried cranberry, orange zest, fig, date, Chinese 5 spice mélange, and firm sturdy tannins.