Chocolate Wine: How to make it

How to use chocolate in wine

Should chocolate be the main ingredient in the wine? Put another way, should everything else in the wine be there just to make sure there is enough alcohol, sugar, and acid for the wine to be … well a wine? That’s how I made my oregano wine, and it looks promising. In that recipe I made an herb tea from my fresh oregano, added enough sugar for 12% alcohol, and fermented. Later I added acid to balance. If I took that approach with chocolate, I’d prepare a must with cocoa, extract or whatever form of chocolate I decided on, add sugar, ferment and add acid. I’m trying to imagine what that would be like, and I just can’t. That may be reason enough to try a “just chocolate” wine, but there is another way.

I could make another wine, that I think would take well to chocolate, and use chocolate as another ingredient or additive. It might be a bit like adding oak chips, and I’ll refer to this style as “chocolate flavored wine”. What sort of wines would work with this method? Since I’ve never done it before, I don’t know for sure, but raspberry, cherry, and blueberry come to mind. An ordinary, full bodied, red wine might be just the thing. I’ve heard of people using chocolate in mead, which would be a lot like using chocolate as the main ingredient in a wine, only less so.

There are a lot of possibilities, and I’ll probably try more than one. I can’t possibly try them all, though, so if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

How much chocolate to use in wine

No matter how I make the wine, I’ll have to decide how much chocolate to use. There’s a lot of reference material on how much oak, tannin, acid, and so on to use in wine, but not so much on just the right amount of chocolate. To start with, I’ll use the phenolic content to put an upper limit on the amount. I don’t want to be trying to remove excess phenolics from my chocolate wine, so I’ll compare the amount in cocoa powder with the typical amount in red wine to get a maximum. Red wines will have up to 0.35% (3.5 g/L) phenolic content. As I mentioned in my post on chocolate, cocoa powder is about 8%, by weight, phenolic compounds. Putting these two figures together, and doing a little algebra, yields a figure of 43.75 g (a little over 1.5 oz and a little under 9 tablespoons) of cocoa powder in a liter. For a gallon of wine, then, we’d want no more than 165.6 g (5.8 oz).

There are some reasons that we might want less. The phenolics in chocolate won’t be the same as the phenolics in grapes, so it makes sense to back off from this maximum amount. The hot chocolate recipes I’ve seen are made with anywhere from 1 – 2 tablespoons of cocoa per cup (about 21-42 g/L). The lower value of 21 g/L, which works out to about 3 oz/gallon, should still yield plenty of flavor (it’s from the recipe in the Joy of Cooking) with less risk that the phenolics will be too harsh.

The subtle approach

This is a good starting point for a just chocolate wine, and maybe for a chocolate flavored wine. If we’re using chocolate like oak, then we should look at a more subtle approach too. After all, the flavor in hot chocolate might be good, but will it be good as a wine? Will it even be recognizable as wine? Maybe, but the rich flavor profile of chocolate might be useful in much smaller amounts to add complexity to wine. I’m imagining tasting such a wine and thinking, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ve never tasted Merlot like that before!” rather than, “Wow, chocolate!” When most people cook with chocolate or use it in flavored drinks, subtlety is not the goal. That makes it harder to know how much chocolate would add richness and complexity without overwhelming the wine. I think I’ll start with an arbitrary number, and cut the 21 g/L in half. Call it 10 g/L, which is about 1.3 oz or 7.5 tablespoons per gallon.

Now that I’m getting a better idea of how to make chocolate wine and how much chocolate to use, I’ll take a look at some existing recipes. There aren’t many, but I’m hoping to find enough for a reality check. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to this blog. It’s free and easy, and you’ll get every article without having to keep checking back.



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18 thoughts on “Chocolate Wine: How to make it

  1. Nicole

    OMG I totally want to make a black spanish w/ chocolate wine. This is a very helpful blog. Thanks a million

  2. John H

    Erroll,

    I wonder if your chocolate wine came off, how it came out, and what you might do differently next time should there be a next time. Love to hear back from you!

    – John

  3. Valerie

    I had a wonderful chocolate Merlot at a vineyard in Napa last summer. There was a Virginia winery with a chocolate wine at the local wine festival here in Chesapeake last week, but the line was insane.

  4. emprefe

    you will also want to take in account the type of cocoa to use of the 2 types of cocoa powder. first their is regular baking cocoa and then their is Dutched cocoa. Dutched cocoa is less bitter, seems to dissolve better and is usually used in drinks, puddings, truffles and softer sweeter chocolate items. You can also find mixed cocoa powder containing both regular and Dutched cocoa powders. So if you want a less bitter taste to the chocolate wine you will probably want to use Dutched cocoa.

  5. ron

    I just tried some chocolate infused wine at a tasting the other day and I really loved it (Red Decadence) . I make a lot of different types of red and white wines from grapes. I want to try infusing some myself but not sure when they add the chocolate. I will have to experiment, but if anyone has made some please send along some tips.

  6. Erroll Post author

    > I just tried some chocolate infused wine at a tasting the other day and I really loved it
    > I want to try infusing some myself but not sure when they add the chocolate. I will have to experiment

    Sounds like some fun experiments, Ron. I hope you’ll come back the let the rest of us know how they went!

    Erroll

  7. Xavier

    Though I generally stick to spiced meads and fruit wines, I have experimented with “Just Chocolate” wine in the past. I used baking cocoa for the chocolate flavoring and a small amount of agave nectar as I like to experiment with different flavors. The rest was just sugar, water and a handful of grapes. I let it ferment and drank with some friends directly after racking. Amazingly, it tasted very similar to a cabernet and was nearly dry. My friends were impressed and I liked it as well. I actually have a small batch fermenting right now. This time I am trying for a more dessert style wine.

  8. Xavier

    Racked last week and the secondary is still going well. I’m thinking I will rack it again in a couple days to get it off the lees and try to have some ready by the new year. Though yeasty, the juice from the bottom of the primary had a wonderful, sweet, chocolatey taste. I can’t wait to try the finished product. If it’s good, I may enter it into a competition. I’m just not sure which category they would let me into with it.

  9. Chris

    I was actually thinking of replacing my normal oak chips in a merlot with cocoa nibs to see how that turns out. I’m hopeing for more on the subtle side as opposed to the wow chocolate reaction. If anybody has tried let me know, otherwise I’ll let you all know once its done.

  10. Erroll Post author

    I was actually thinking of replacing my normal oak chips in a merlot with cocoa nibs

    I haven’t tried that, Chris, but I’d love to know how it turns out!

    Erroll

  11. Tom

    Just curious, Chris, how’d it turn out with the chocolate nibs? Was there just a subtle chocolate flavor? That’d what I’d like to accomplish.

  12. Greg

    This post has inspired me. I tasted a chocolate infused wine and liked it so much I bought a bottle from Molliver Vineyards in Nathalie, VA. It is called “Vin Chocolat”. I am planning to make some wine with cocao as soon as I have all my ingredients.

  13. Kathy

    Just read this. I’m new to wine making but tasted chocolate rouge and thought it was good.
    The red chocolate wine, not the one with cream. I’m interested in trying to make some.
    I’m taking the hints from above and hope something works out.
    Would love if some would post how there’s turned out and the recipe.

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