Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

A Heartfelt Ode to Mixing Red Wine and Chocolate

A Heartfelt Ode to Mixing Red Wine and Chocolate

When I was growing up in an ethnic family back in the 1950s, wine was considered an appropriate beverage to be consumed with meals on a daily basis. However, conventional thinking back then held that only reprobates or winos regularly drank wine. These were the moral police of the time whose idea of moderate drinking consisted of consuming three martinis at lunch. Thankfully, things have changed.

Even so, I’m always looking for ways to justify (my wife would say rationalize) my indulgences and wine is always at the top of the list. Years ago, a study known as “The French Paradox” suggested that regular and moderate consumption of wine (especially red) with meals was the reason the French experienced significantly fewer heart attacks than Americans. This despite the fact that the French diet is extremely high in fat.

We Americans eat a lot fat, too, but we don’t consume enough wine to mitigate the negative effects. Therefore, our rates of cardiac calamities are significantly worse than the French. So while you may disagree, I think there is a pretty strong correlation between regular consumption of wine and cardiac health - and I believe in taking care of my heart!

Another one of my weaknesses is chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought chocolate was about the greatest food in the universe. Not surprisingly, my mother would try and temper my chocoholic tendencies by frightening me with stories about obese chocolate over-indulgers whose teeth were rotten and whose faces were scarred with acne.

But, like admonitions regarding carnal thoughts, warnings about the ruinous effects of too much chocolate were largely ignored. Indeed, they only enhanced the forbidden pleasure of surreptitiously wolfing down a couple of Hershey Bars in the closet of my bedroom.

Now, fast-forward a couple of decades when, much to my pleasure, I read a story about how researchers at the University of California at Davis released a study demonstrating that dark chocolate has similar heart-healthy qualities to red wine. In a letter to The Lancet (a medical publication) some years ago, these researchers reported finding that compounds in cocoa had an effect similar to those in wine in preventing LDL oxidation in the blood stream. One researcher said, “The pleasant pairing of red wine and dark chocolate could have synergistic advantages beyond their complementary tastes.”

So, where am I going with all of this? Well, it seems to me that by pairing chocolate with red wine we could create the perfect food and wine marriage, and also double our cardiac benefits at the same time!

Holy Cow, I thought, this information is on a par with the discovery of penicillin! I’ve always suspected that good things are good for you. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not good for you. The key word apparently is moderation in both wine and chocolate consumption. Oh well, that’s a small price to pay for this heavenly experience.

Over the past several years, I have done considerable personal research to validate the above-mentioned studies and have come to the unscientific conclusion that there is just about nothing better for dessert than a good full-bodied red wine and your favorite chocolate.

For those of you who are adventuresome, try this combination: Holls (or some other fine chocolate purveyor) and the cabernet sauvignon of your choice. One of my favorites to match with chocolate is Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, see above ($22).

Go ahead, give it a try-- you’re too old to worry about pimples.

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