Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

A dream come true: chocolate and wine are good for you!

I fell in love with chocolate decades ago and throughout the intervening years I have tried desperately to avoid becoming a full-fledged chocoholic.  My battle with this sweet addiction has caused me much angst, but over the past few years researchers have touted the healthful attributes of chocolate - or at least dark chocolate.

This research came as shocking, yet welcome, news and seemed a repudiation of what a whole generation of moms preached to us.  Remember  when your mom would scare you with horror stories about how too much chocolate would result in rotten teeth, pimples and obesity?

Your parents probably also warned you about drinking wine.  Just a few of decades ago, people who drank more than just an occasional glass were considered reprobates or wino's by the moral police of the time whose idea of moderate drinking with meals was the three martini lunch.

           

While moderate wine consumption is considered acceptable now, chocolate had still been considered a somewhat decadent extravagance by health-conscious individuals.

Then a study known as The French Paradox suggested that moderate consumption of wine, especially red, with meals is the reason that people living in France, who consume a high fat diet, have significantly fewer heart attacks than Americans. The difference, we were told, is that Americans (who ate as much fat as the French), did not regularly consume wine with their meals.

Well, you’re probably not going to believe this, but a few years ago scientists at the University of California at Davis, who are experts on wine antioxidant research, found dark that chocolate has similar heart-healthy qualities.

But here’s the bonus:  It now seems that chocolate and red wine, when paired together, provide synergistic and increased health benefits in the form of reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff).

Holy Cow!  Is this great, or what?

In a letter to The Lancet  (medical publication), the researchers reported finding that compounds in cocoa had an effect similar to those in wine in preventing LDL oxidation in the blood stream.

One researcher said, “The pleasant pairing of red wine and dark chocolate could have synergistic advantages beyond their complementary tastes.”

Shazamm!  My prayers have been answered!   

Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not good for you. The key word apparently is moderation in both wine and chocolate consumption.  And the California researchers also add an admonition that “we certainly aren’t suggesting that people start eating chocolate to prevent coronary heart disease.”

This research only confirmed what I have known for years about the wonderful taste harmony of dark chocolate and full-bodied and rich red wines - particularly cabernet sauvignon. 

I first discovered this heavenly pairing when, by accident, I took a sip of my dinner cabernet after having just taken a bite of a delicious chocolate truffle dessert.  From then on, I made it a point to save a little of my red wine for dessert. 

           

Here are two reasonably priced cabernet sauvignon blends that prove the researchers' point:  

2007 Hedges C.M.S. ($16) - This Washington State lovely elixir is a combination of cabernet, merlot and syrah (hence the  moniker C.M.S.) and is not only great with a grilled steak, it is also worth saving a few sips to enjoy with the above-mentioned dark chocolate.

2006 Altos de Luzon ($15) - From the Jumilla region of Spain, this blend of monastrell, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo,  is a delicious concoction with dark cherry, blackberry and coffee tones.  The wine gets increasingly better in the glass and is the perfect match for chocolate once it's time for dessert.    

 I must admit, however, that never, in my wildest fantasies, did I suspect that chocolate and wine could actually be good for me.  That’s not the way things are supposed to be, are they? Shouldn’t I feel a little guilt about this?

           

Nah.

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