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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