Ports, Wines & Chocolates

With New Year’s health resolutions high on everyone’s list and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is no better time to explore both the pleasure and health benefits of ports, wines and chocolates.
Let’s explore first the “healthy” aspect of both wine and chocolate followed by the “pleasure” of tasting and pairing this dynamic duo together!

•    Researchers have found that eating chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins that make us feel happy and relaxed.
•    Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the amount in strawberries!)
•    Some studies have found increased health benefits for red wine over white wine. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine, offering significant antioxidant protection against cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer.
•    Resveratrol, the most powerful polyphenol, neutralizes free radicals that intend to wreak havoc on critical cellular functions. Of special note, Pinot Noir contains several times the amount of other red wines such as Syrah or Merlot, which already contain about 10 times the amount of resveratrol as white wines.

Chocolate boosts serotonin, our brain’s antidepressant, along with stimulating the secretion of endorphins. The natural chemical compound, Phenylethylamine (PEA),releases mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing endorphins in your brain and is released when people are falling in love. It is no small wonder that we consume so much chocolate and we shower each other with chocolate at different holidays and celebrations. Perhaps this helps to explain why chocolate and Valentine’s Day are so closely linked!

Both wine and chocolate blend complex flavors and notes exhibiting similar components and nuances. Wine pairings follow the same kind of process as a wine or chocolate tasting, except that you taste each together. Flavors are released in stages. You will notice the fruity, nutty, spicy and/or woody notes. Let’s examine each….

Chocolate has amazing complexities and levels of flavor. You will find unique attributes for every chocolate you taste. Every chocolate has distinct flavor notes, textures and finishes; it can be said that each chocolate has its own personality. Like fine wine, each represents unique blends, percentages of cocoa, country of origin, terroir, roasting, timing and drying processes. The taste of the cocoa bean, like a wine varietal, depends on the soil, growing conditions and type of plant from a particular place. Harvesting and fermentation also affect flavor.

When pairing wines with chocolate, your best bet is to match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be. For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it will display. However when you pair this darker chocolate up with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more fruit to show through. Similar to “formal” wine tasting, start with a more subtle white chocolate and end on a dark or bittersweet chocolate.

True Port wine comes only from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, heavier and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits (similar to brandy) to fortify the wine and halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol and results in a wine that is usually either 19.5% or 20% alcohol.

Port is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, often with cheese; commonly stilton. White and tawny ports are often served as an aperitif.

While we spoke of the mood elevating effects of the chocolate and the health benefits of wine, there are no similar reasons to consume port other than to simply enjoy it! Additionally, leftover Port wine is fabulous in sauces and is especially handy in perking up culinary creations. So Bon Appétit!

While the healthy aspects of dark chocolate are packed with antioxidants with all the benefits that dark veggies give you, beware, NOT ALL chocolates are created equal.

To obtain all the benefits that chocolate has to offer, we need the right kind – at least 70% cold pressed cocoa made with unprocessed, un-alkalized cacao and natural unprocessed sweeteners (we want the benefits – not the fat and calories)!

Forget about milk chocolate and never, ever eat white chocolate as it is actually not even chocolate, it is just butter with sugars and artificial flavors.

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