We just wrapped up the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart, and I spent the weekend sampling wine or hot chocolate to nearly everyone who walked through our doors. A select few got a taste of both. That's right; the rumors are true, wine and hot cocoa do mix!
When paired properly, wine will impart a velvety texture to the cocoa, adding bright cherry or strawberry flavors. It's a transcendental experience, like using Universal Stone to clean all your Chakras, but when you pick the wrong wine it's a disaster, like eating a brick of Universal Stone. So how do we pick the right wine? Fear not, by the end of this blog, you will be on your way to having an open third eye and a mustache of hot cocoa and wine.
First, let's talk about the hot cocoa. Sure, you could just use that sad little baggie of brown dust you bought at the grocery store last year, but did you know The Chopping Block has our own hot cocoa mix? Every winter our elite team of eager elves toil in the workshop mixing chocolate, vanilla, and sea salt into a magical mixture that, when combined with hot milk and a little love, becomes a delicious treat for the whole family. If you take that same mug of steamy hot chocolate and splash in the right wine, it transforms into a delicious treat for the whole family that's over the legal drinking age.
The general rule for pairing sweet food with wine is to select a wine that is sweeter than the dish. That's not really what we're doing here, asvthis is more akin to cooking with wine, but some of the same rules still apply.
Sweetness in food will highlight the bitterness, acidity, and alcohol burn of wine, while muting the sweetness, fruit, and body.
In this case, the body and sweetness are less of an issue since we're pouring it straight into the hot cocoa. So, what we need is a wine that isn't very bitter or acidic, and has a low to medium alcohol by volume, but at the same time has enough fruit to stand out.
Working at The Chopping Block has afforded me the opportunity to experiment with a lot of different combinations, but out of our entire wine list only two wines really produced the desired effect. The first, Mas de Gourgonnier, is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carignan. The only problem I have recommending Mas is that I think I'd enjoy it more on its own than mixed with chocolate and milk. For those of you who lack my sentimental attachments, it makes a fine choice. However, my Goldilocks recommendation is Valle dell'Acate Nero d'Avola, which is also a well-made wine, but costs far less so there's not as much guilt on my part.
If you're not able to stop by our store and pick up the required supplies, I would suggest making sure you're using a milk-based hot cocoa mix and a wine that is fruit forward, low tannin, and low to medium alcohol by volume. If I was looking for a value wine to try this with, I would shoot for a fruity Pinot Noir. Definitely avoid anything with a lot of tannin. I haven't tried it, but I suspect the right port would work really well.
If you're in the area, stop by the store, we have all the things you need to make your new favorite winter drink. We can even hook you up with a nice sauce pan to warm the milk and a spoon to stir it with, if you're really lucky we might even have samples out (we might even splash a little wine in your cocoa to let you try it out).