Wineries & Vineyards
Biltmore Pairs Red Wine & Chocolate
“So, how many of you have ever put red wine with dark chocolate?”
A few of the people gathered in the Biltmore Champagne Cellar raise their hands. Most glance around the room. Biltmore host Peggy Muldrow doesn’t miss a beat. “Today, I’ll show you how a glass of red wine and a couple of pieces of dark chocolate can be a flavorful and healthy dessert.”
Thus begins the “Red Wine & Chocolate” seminar, a twice-daily offering at the Biltmore Winery that comes free with a paid admission to the Estate. The seminars have proven to be an extremely popular addition to the offerings at Biltmore since they began in 2000, appealing both to new wine drinkers and seasoned connoisseurs.
Of course, health experts have long agreed on the beneficial qualities of both dark chocolate and red wine in moderate amounts. Chocolate contains flavonoids, potent antioxidants that help protect the heart, and dark chocolate is even better because it contains more cocoa and less sugar. Red wine is beneficial because it contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which helps to stabilize blood glucose levels and make cells healthier. Those same experts warn, however, that the benefits of both red wine and chocolate can quickly be undone by overindulgence in either.
Muldrow starts by pouring everyone a taste of the Biltmore Cardinal’s Crest blend and going through the basics of wine tasting: the swirl, the sniff, the slurp, and the swish. She points out that 80-90% of what we perceive as ‘taste’ comes from our sense of smell, so the aroma of the wine is an extremely important part of its flavor.
Then comes the chocolate. Muldrow suggests having a little of both the wine and the chocolate in your mouth at the same time, to get the full effect of the pairing. As it turns out, different chocolates pair differently with different wines. The Cardinal’s Crest, a medium-bodied blend of several types of grapes, actually pairs best with a lighter milk chocolate. Later the group tries some dark chocolate with Biltmore’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and finds that the combination brings out a cherry-like flavor that neither the wine nor the chocolate have on their own.
In fact, casual polling around the room yields interesting results: while most of the visitors to the seminar preferred the Cardinal’s Crest by itself, nearly all agreed that when paired with the chocolate, the Cabernet came alive with flavors that made it the overwhelming favorite. Yet another example of how the flavor and perception of any wine can be changed by the food it’s served with.
“Many of our guests who claim to not like red wine often leave with a new appreciation of it after the seminar,” says the Biltmore Winery’s Spencer Knight. “They say the chocolate ‘smoothes out’ the wine, and some describe the taste to be like a chocolate-cherry cordial. People often return to Biltmore and tell the seminar host that they began drinking red wine on a regular basis after attending the seminar.”
Certainly, there are a multitude of other reasons to go to Biltmore right now. The winter season is full of bargains for visitors, with deals on annual passes, stays at the Biltmore Inn, and the lowest admission prices of the year.
But while you’re there, make time for the Red Wine & Chocolate Seminar, held daily at the winery at 2 p.m. You’ll learn things about wine tasting and food pairings you may not have known before, and you’ll indulge your taste buds while you’re at it. In fact, you may find a new spin on dessert that will change the way you look at both that bottle of wine in your cabinet and the bar of chocolate in your pantry.
added: December 22, 2008
updated: January 11, 2012