Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Chocolate and Wine : More Than Fine

A few years ago drinking a glass of red wine a day become the latest prescription for health. Did anyone else share my sentiment that perhaps this news was just a littlet too good to be true? So now that we've finally gotten used to the idea, another shocker is up for consideration--chocolate has arrived on the eat-once-a-day list. Pinch me! Does this mean a prescription for health that includes driking wine and eating chocolate every day?

Saying we MUST eat both might be an overstatement, but why not? Chocolate contains nearly twice as many antioxidants as red wine and together they provide the ultimate antioxidant-rich cocktail of benefits for the body. The key of course is to eat the right kind of chocolate and the rumor is true--the darker the better. The health benefits of chocolate reside in the cocoa powder, so the more cocoa powder the more antioxidant value you'll get.

If you don't know which chocolates to eat, look for bars that contain the cocoa content on the packaging. Brands that don't are hiding the fact that they hardly contain any cocoa at all--some get down to as low as 7%. I won't mention any names, but you know who they are. 7% cocoa content means 93% sugar, fat, artificial ingredients and fillers. To find out where these products end up, check the scale.

Look for a minimum of 55% dark chocolate. If you're a milk-lover, try a brand like Chocolove or Dagoba, both available at Whole Foods and easy on the palate. These brands offer a variety of bars with varying cocoa contents, making the "going-to-the-dark-side" process a little easier. Try the different cocoa contents one after another, starting with milk and moving to dark. As your palate develops over time, you may find it an actual struggle returning to the striking sweetness of milk chocolate.

When matching wines with chocolate, reds are more antioxidant rich than whites, but both have benefits. However, reds typically pair better with chocolate because of the synergy. White wines often taste bitter with chocolate, unless of course you have a very sweet white such as a Muscato or some Reislings.

Try these adventurous pairings the next time you're feeling a free-radical overload and in need of a little antioxidant assistance....

Cabernet with 60-70% mint dark chocolate (try Valor mint/dark): The mint brings out the sweetness of the wine and in turn, the wine makes the chocolate a bit sweeter as well.

Beaujolais with 55-60% dark chocolate infused with fruit(try Chocolove berries and nuts): Beaujolais, a typically fruity and aromatic wine goes exceptionally well with chocolate and fruit.

Orange Muscat with 60-65% dark chocolate covered orange peel (try Valor dark w/orange): The synergy will have you smiling.

Tawny Port with 40-45% milk chocolate (try Green & Black's milk w/almonds): This fortified wine with nutty nuances is a natural match for milk chocolate and nuts.