It’s just stupid.
And it’s hard to believe it’s wine.
But let me go back to the beginning.
I went into the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart a few weeks ago. (Well, truth be told, I’m in there every few days. But this particular episode took place near the beginning of August.) I had a question, so I caught the eye of the store’s affable and oh-so-efficient manager, Marcel Roberge. We chatted a bit, I got my answer, and prepared to leave. Then he hit me with this.
"Diane, have you tried that chocolate wine?"
I stopped dead in my tracks, and looked back with what I’m sure was an expression of disbelief. Then I thought I'd figured out what he was talking about.
"You mean The Café Culture?" I asked. "The South African one with coffee and mocha flavours? I did a column on that a year or so ago."
"No — not that," Roberge said patiently. "I mean the chocolate wine."
OK, so this time my expression must have been both perplexed and horrified. He smiled.
I said, "Have you got some?" (I meant did he have any in stock.)
He smiled again. "I’ll get you a taste," he said, and disappeared into the stockroom.
A few minutes later, he reappeared and put a glass in my hand. I looked at it, dumbfounded. I’d have sworn it was chocolate milk.
I tasted it. And as I said earlier, it was stupid.
"Damn you, Marcel," I said.
I took another sip, and repeated that not-so-complimentary phrase. Another sip, another berating for poor Mr. Roberge. Finally, though, I had to change my tune.
"Thank you, Marcel," I said. "Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!"
This was not a wine I needed to add to my collection. But if you like chocolate, and I do, ChocolatRouge is for you.
If you’re going to go for this, you also have to like sweet beverages. And while I don’t generally like sweet wines, I do like liqueurs. And that’s what this tasted like. Creamy, chocolaty, smooth, and luscious, ChocolatRouge is an indulgent little bevvy that would be perfect at the end of a meal for a non-dessert-fan like me.
The label says it’s "A Blend of Rich Chocolate Flavors and Fine Red Wine," and lists the ingredients as "Grape wine, cream, natural flavors, caramel and certified color." (Grape wine? Certified color?? Hmmm.)
Regardless, the stuff is reminiscent of cocktails like Mudslides or Brown Cows, only I think ChocolatRouge is better. The wine in it is smoother than the hard liquors contained in many of those other creations. And while ChocRouge tastes just like a chocolate milkshake, at 14 per cent alcohol, it’s definitely not a drink for kids.
Made by E. & J. Gallo Wines of California, which is also responsible for the phenomenon that is Apothic Red, the sweet red wine that’s taken North America by storm, ChocolatRouge is a response to the market’s apparent penchant for flavoured — and sweet — wines.
"Consumers are having fun and experimenting with new wine flavors more than ever before," Stephanie Gallo, E & J Gallo Wines vice-president of marketing wrote in an email to John Holland of The Modesto Bee newspaper in February of this year. "We created ChocolatRouge to give consumers a deliciously different wine experience that they can’t find in other wines. We married the indulgence of chocolate with the elegance of red wine for a unique twist on the classic pairing."
While wine purists are likely to turn up their noses at ChocolatRouge, there’s no denying that for some — likely for many — this creamy concoction will be a popular product. I figure I’ll use it as a dessert wine when we have company. Heck, I’m just going to use it as dessert! And I realize that sounds ridiculous after all the times I’ve gone on at length about how much I don’t like sweet wines. But I love liqueurs and I DO like ChocolatRouge. Which again (it’s broken record time, folks!) proves that taste is an individual thing, and I firmly hold to my right to have seemingly contradictory opinions about beverages if I so choose.
So if you like chocolate, and you’re in the mood to try something different — really different, at least where wine is concerned — and you have $13.99 to spare, I’d urge you to pick up a bottle of ChocolatRouge. It was a big hit at a dinner party I hosted two weeks ago. And it's always fun to have something new and quirky to share with friends.