By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry
Retail Confectioner
casselld@bnpmedia.com


As a kid, I used to make homemade greeting cards for family members -- some featuring my favorite fat cat (Garfield) and always with a Cassell Company Cards copyright logo on the back. For my parents’ anniversary, I once created a card that read “Mom and Dad, you go together like bread and butter” (complete with illustrations of said ingredients).
 
Yes, some marriages just make sense. Bread and butter, peanut butter and jelly … and wine and chocolate, of course.
 
People have been coupling their favorite bottles of vino and chocolate bars/truffles/barks for ages. But in recent years, the combination has gone mainstream in the form of sophisticated new products and merchandising strategies that take aim at fans of the palate-pleasing pairing.
 
Take Brix: Chocolate for Wine. Its creator, Dr. Nick Proia (an Ohio pulmonologist), developed the line after having difficulty finding chocolate on the market that paired well with wine. According to www.brixchocolate.com, “after trying all different varieties and ‘strengths,’ he could find no happy medium. Either the chocolate was too much like eating candy or it was so bitter and complex that it would dominate a fine wine.
 
“After a good deal of trial and error,” the story continues, “Dr. Proia crafted the three blends of what would later be called Brix -- the first chocolate specifically blended to compliment wine. At their root is single origin Ghanaian chocolate, known for its red fruit tones, mixed with the highest quality confectionary chocolate. The result is a blend so pure in flavor that it actually enhances those nuances found in great wines, without confusing the palate.”


The resulting bricks or Brix come in three varieties: Milk Chocolate (“designed for the lighter reds and dessert wines,” and recommended for pairing with Port, Ice Wine, Rosé, Pinot Noir and Burgundy), Dark Chocolate (high in cocoa content, but “sedate enough to enhance the fruit forward wines it was designed to accompany making it the most versatile,” and recommended for pairing with Zinfandel, Syrah, Rhone, Merlot and Shiraz, “but don't be fooled -- it easily stretches upward to the lighter cabs and downward to the heavier pinots”) and Extra Dark Chocolate (“specifically formulated to pair with the deepest red wines,” with a very high cocoa content that “can stand up to the massive tannins” found in these wines: Barolo, Cabernet and Bordeaux as well as Zinfandels and Syrahs). A  pack of three Brix retails for $38.85. (Brix also offers Brix Bites: 6-oz. variety boxes containing 10 Dark Bites, 10 Extra Dark Bites and four Milk Bites.)
 
Brix isn’t the only brand with fusion on the brain. Other products on the market include Wine Lover’s Chocolate from Bridge Brands Chocolate as well as various wine-filled chocolates and truffles.
 
“Chocolate for wine lovers” also is the subject of a site created by The Hershey Co.: www.chocolateloveswine.com. There, it offers visitors guidelines or “pairing pointers” such as “keep it sweet,” “think red,” “be daring,” “embrace texture” and “think like a pastry chef.”
 
Chuao Chocolatier offers its own wine-chocolate tasting guidelines at www.chuaochocolatier.com/wine.html.
 
And at retail, DOVE Chocolate and E.J. Gallo Winery are sure to rack up sales with their new DOVE Chocolate and Wine Pairing Rack, available to retailers in all distribution channels - grocery, convenience and drug - that carry E. & J. Gallo Winery as well as DOVE Chocolate.
 
“The goal of the DOVE Chocolate Wine Pairing Rack is to create an ongoing program bringing the wine and chocolate experience to consumers on a regular basis,” says Lauren Nodzak, spokesperson for Mars Chocolate North America. “Pairing luscious, creamy DOVE Chocolate with premium wine provides the perfect indulgent experience for consumers,” especially since more people are entertaining at home rather than eating out.
 
The DOVE Chocolate and Wine Pairing Rack helps consumers who want to create elegant dining experiences at home by guiding them to the right selection of wines to accompany different DOVE Chocolate flavors. It holds 16 bottles of wine alongside an assortment of DOVE Chocolate, and can be used in virtually any retail format where chocolate and wine are sold.
 
Chocolate and wine: a winning combination.
 
But wait. Another match is being made in food and beverage heaven: beer and chocolate. Tandem tastings of the two are becoming more prominent. At ww.vosgeschocolate.com, Vosges Haut Chocolat pairs its signature Mo’s Bacon Bar with Rogue Shakespeare Stout, and Caramel Marshmallows with Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout. And as Candy Industry sister pub Beverage Industry reported in April, one of the categories with the most entries in the 2010 Brewers Association World Beer Cup was Chocolate Beer.
 
But there might be one thing better than beer and chocolate.
 
I recently received an e-mail from The Restaurant Collection promoting a grilled cheese and beer tasting (you read correctly) at World Café Life in Philadelphia. The event included pairings of craft beers and artisan cheeses on fresh-baked breads.
 
Wine, chocolate, beer, cheese, bread and butter … bring it.