These red wines go well with chocolate

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Sometimes there’s wine left over after dinner, and it’s always interesting to see if it can carry through to dessert. The challenge—especially for red wines—is how it will stand up to chocolate. Of course, I’m talking about real chocolate: the dark, rich, slightly bitter, full-bodied kind. That’s the only kind of chocolate that really counts. Milk chocolate is wussy, and so-called white chocolate is an aberration. “The darker the better” is my tasting motto.

It was the back label of one of the wines below that set the tone and substance for this column. All but one in the roundup is actually real red-grape wine, and only one is a traditionally sweet fruit wine. So if your palate is at loose ends one of these gloomy fall days, gather up a few of these, get some chocolate, and invite intrepid tasters over to see how the fit is. If you find anything really good that I’ve missed, do let me know; we can do another tasting in the near future. You can never have too much chocolate in your life!

14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend 2010 ($15.99, specialty)
This is a full and delicious new-to-our-market wine from Washington state that’s clean, fresh, and robust but without any sharp edges. Available until the end of November at 85 LDB stores, it tames the dark-chocolate unctuousness and is a heady companion to dessert, or just any-afternoon sipping.

Vina Cobos Felino Malbec 2010 and 2011 ($19.99, specialty, currently in 70 stores in B.C.)
I got the 2011 recently, but I found a previously untasted 2010 under the stairs so tasted them in tandem. The newer wine is made from Malbec, Cab Sauv, Merlot, and—surprise—Chardonnay, and it wants food (chocolate is food!). Deep purple, rich, and soft, with agreeable aromas off the glass. Spicy and strong, maybe a bit better suited to meat than chocolate. The 2010 is more of a challenge: once you get past the not-so-nice strident aroma, it soon settles down to a gentle, mellow, sweeter mix of flavours that seem to favour chocolate more than the 2011. Interesting exercise: have one of each and compare the wines without food first; our tasters preferred the older wine by a small margin.

Township 7 Reserve 7 Meritage 2008 ($34.99, 280 cases produced; still available at both T7 wineries, Langley and Naramata)
This is the one that planted the idea for this column. Here is dark, fresh, blackberry-jam aroma with intense and luscious flavours and a hint of sweetness on the front palate. With the first sip, there are also hints of espresso (?). For chocolate, for sure, or lamb on the grill or beef roasted or barbecued. This one is the costliest wine on the table today. What a stunner. Slow sipping definitely suggested. Consensus: most likely the best of the bunch this time.

Timbuktu Offshore Shiraz/Grenache 2010 ($14.97, specialty)
And this is the cheapest this time. Sweet and grapey, with a rich raisin-pie finish, this Australian newcomer is lighter than many we’ve become accustomed to but carries enough depth of flavour all over the palate to handle any traditional meat and works very well with chocolate.

ARC Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010 ($14.99, specialty)
Universal opinion: this is the best buy on the table this time. A big, in-your-face red, bold and robust with a mellow if slightly smudgy finish. Excellent everyday-value dinner wine.

Cline California Zinfandel 2010 ($18.99, specialty)
Definitely Zinfandel, from the first whiff. Dark and impenetrable in the glass. Slightly musty but very peppery, with plenty of oaky vanilla all over the tongue. A strong and brawny wine; the winery suggests it for pasta puttanesca or chili. But definitely chocolate, too.

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2010 ($25.99, specialty)
Darker and bigger still, at 15 percent alcohol. Heady and sweet at first, with lots of blackberry. Complex flavours abound. Made from 80- to 100-year-old vines. Big and full, almost blowsy, and a little intimidating—chocolate tames that right down.

Averill Creek Prevost 2009 ($15.99, at the winery and select indie stores)
From the Cowichan Valley winery that’s quickly establishing itself as a powerhouse producer comes this ripe and rich blend (80 percent Marechal Foch, 15 percent Foch-Cabernet, 5 percent Merlot) with minty and coffee elements for the tongue and a peppery finish at the end. Sweetish at first, it then morphs into a sour-cherry finish. Foch fans will like it especially; others? An acquired taste, perhaps.

Averill Creek Cowichan Black Vancouver Island Blackberry n/v (375 millilitres, $18, at the winery and select indie stores)
Beautifully sweet and surprisingly light. One to put over premium ice cream. This is the best fruit wine for fresh blackberries on a shortcake crust with whipping cream and shaved dark chocolate. It may be tough to find, but it’s worth the effort. An essential part of your spirited dessert cupboard.

Here’s a list of the ninth annual Best of B.C. wines, all reds, which were in the LDB stores as of last week. They’ll be gone in no time. (Did you know the liquor stores are now under the aegis of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas? Neither did I, but that’s what the memo states.) Supplies are, naturally, limited, and limited quantities per customer are in place. Make your selection from these…

Painted Rock Red Icon 2009 ($54.95)
Mission Hill Family Estate Compendium 2009 ($45)
Mission Hill Family Estate Quatrain 2009 ($45)
Painted Rock Syrah 2009 ($39.95)
CedarCreek Platinum Meritage 2007/2009 ($39.90)
Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2009 ($34.90)
Laughing Stock Syrah 2010 ($34)
Nk’Mip Q2 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30)
Inniskillin Okanagan Discovery Series Pinotage 2009 ($29.99)
Jackson-Triggs Entourage Gold Series Sparkling Chardonnay N/V ($29.99)
Hester Creek Reserve Merlot 2008 ($26.99)

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