Sometimes you put two wonderful things together, and the combination is even greater than the sum of its parts. The bacon sandwich.
Sometimes, the combination can only lead to disaster. The bacon hat.
And into one of those two groups must fall… chocolate wine.
Yes, chocolate wine. Is it any coincidence that I spotted this as we approach the chocolate avalanche that is Easter? I can only assume that this product has been created, not by a winemaker or a chocolatier, but a marketing department. Take two flavours redolent of connoisseurship. luxury and refinement, two items often given as gifts, two audiences which overlap in tastes, and, er, bung them together.
Oh, and put on a label which employs the eau de nil colour of Fortnum & Mason, subliminally suggestive of sophistication. Even if that’s unlikely to be attained in £6 worth of wine. Or, for that matter, chocolate.
“Chocolate Drop is specially crafted” says the label “for those who adore chocolate.” No mention, however, of one’s feelings towards wine.
Which is just as well, for this is “A smooth mellow red British Wine”. Note the capital letters. British Wine, as the label acknowledges, is “made with imported grape juice”, an intriguing concept in itself. Why not import actual wine? Presumably because anything created as actual wine would not achieve the same balance between low cost and high, nay, teeth-clenching sweetness.
So what we have here is “An imaginative blend of Red British Wine with luxurious Dark Chocolate flavours.” Note at the end of that sentence the weasel word, “flavours”.
What’s with blends being “imaginative”? Would we not be more enthusiastic if we saw an adjective like “successful”? I mean, we can all “imagine” combinations of ingredients; since Heston produced the snail porridge and the meat fruit, it’s surely only a matter of time before someone “imagines” the beef lolly and the fish biscuit.
But the potential for blending two popular and marketable products like chocolate and wine is clearly irresistible, especially for Broadlands Wineries, whose oenological misfortune it is to be located in Norfolk.
Visually, this chocolate wine is a triumph. An odd thing to say, perhaps, but despite its unpromising provenance, it looks exactly like red wine. There’s no deeper colouring, or visible suspension, to alert you to anything untoward. It has you fooled.
So it comes as a shock when you inhale the bouquet, and get an acrid hit of cocoa. It’s like a slap in the face. It’s wrong. Imagine a cup of coffee which smells of fish.
It has none of the flavour of wine at all. It’s a cold, thin, immensely sweet cocoa-flavoured alcoholic drink. The “wine” here is simply a 12% alcoholic delivery mechanism. It merely provides a liquid, and one which lacks the satisfying viscosity of a chocolate liqueur, the warmth of a hot cocoa, or the creaminess of a drinking chocolate.
When it comes to taste, I like chocolate as much as the next man, unless perhaps the next man is John Cadbury. And to me, the “luxurious Dark Chocolate flavours” are reminiscent of a previous attempt to yoke together two products popular at the time – chocolate cigarettes. Anyone else remember those Rizla-wrapped cylinders of brown, fatty chocolate? No wonder they had to be withdrawn; even a child, tired of trying to emulate Bogart or Bacall, found the chocolate itself a nasty, cheap disappointment. And took up smoking instead.
Look, you can’t just put together two disparate things, however popular, and hope for success. That’s why I abandoned my idea of the rubber television (“It’ll take whatever you throw at it!”).
Although, there’s a chocolatier near me who specialises in chocolate shoes. Seriously.
The bacon hat can’t be far off. Just don’t come running to me with seagulls swooping at your head.