ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dr. Vinny,

How can I infuse red wine with chocolate, and still have a red wine with a slight chocolate taste? I am not after a cream type drink, just a normal red wine with a slight chocolate taste.

—Steve T., Fayetteville, Ga.

Dear Steve,

I hope you don’t mind me first pointing out that sometimes wines have flavors identified as chocolate or mocha, but that doesn’t mean the wines are infused with such things. The chocolate flavors can come from either the grapes or the barrels or some combination of the two. (WineSpectator.com members can read about our blind tasting of some actual chocolate wines.)

But let’s say, knowing that, you still want to experiment with infusing some chocolate into wine. I know of wine being infused with herbs and spices, but chocolate is new territory for me, so I’ll have to borrow advice from the vodka-infusing camp.

Putting in chocolate (melted first is recommended) will probably work, but it does create a bit of sludge at the bottom of the bottle, and depending on what kind of chocolate you use, you may add more sugary flavor than chocolate. I’d recommend working with either cocoa powder or cocoa nibs, which you’d have to strain out after, but should give you chocolate notes minus a sugary taste. How much? Following most of the basic vodka-infusing recipes, I’d start with a quarter- to a half-cup of cocoa nibs to two cups of wine. Give it at least a week and up to a month in a cool, dark place in an airtight container before tasting and straining to get the balance you want.

Home spirits infusers often say it’s important to not skimp on quality, so keep this in mind. It’s also a good idea to think about mixing complementary flavors. So knowing how wonderfully Port and chocolate go together, my instinct would be to infuse high-quality cocoa nibs into a ruby Port. Please report back with your findings!

—Dr. Vinny


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