It’s a long-standing Taste Test rule that two great tastes don’t always taste great together, particularly when one of those tastes is alcohol (see: pizza beer and bacon vodka). You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would say no to “fine French cabernet” and “rich dark chocolate from Holland” on their own, or perhaps even paired with each other; but blending those two things into a muddy concoction that smells like Nesquik mixed with nail polish remover significantly reduces their appeal.
Chocovine is more an affront to wine than chocolate, which has been diluted into millions of substandard permutations over the centuries. But to even associate this stuff with wine (or “vine”) is laughable: It doesn’t look, smell, or taste even remotely like anything that came from grapes. Oenophiles—or anyone who has ever enjoyed a glass of anything more complex than a white zinfandel spritzer, for that matter—don’t let this stuff anywhere near your wine cellar. However, Chocovine might prove more appealing to cocktail lovers who like the creamy sweetness of a White Russian—or perhaps 15-year-olds looking to class up their weekend wine-cooler binges. (Remember kids, don’t drink *cough* crappy novelty booze *cough*!)
In keeping with this week’s theme of bastardizing classic tastes by smashing them together, we paired Chocovine with limited-edition Strawberry Milkshake Crème Oreos, following in the footsteps of other specialty takes on the classic sandwich cookie. This one seemed a little more promising—after all, is it even possible to screw up an Oreo? (If you answered yes, go back to China, ya Commie!)
Taste: The immediate reaction to Chocovine was pretty much “uuugggh!” across the board, though once we recalibrated our taste buds into liqueur mode rather than wine mode, it became a little less offensive. (Our resident girly-drink enthusiast, Josh, actually polished off the bottle.) Chocovine tastes absolutely nothing like wine—even the aftertaste has a burn that’s more reminiscent of vodka than anything else. A better comparison point would be Bailey’s, or an extremely sweet chocolate liqueur. The stuff is far too sugary and thick to drink even a few sips of by itself—much less a full wine glass—but it could conceivably be mixed up into a fancy-pants chocolate martini of some sort. Though considering Chocovine has the same alcohol content as wine (just 14 percent), dedicated drunkards would probably be better off with a liqueur.
Not surprisingly, the strawberry Oreos were a much bigger hit, though everyone agreed they couldn’t come close to the beloved original. However, like the Chocovine, it seems like these might be best in small doses: While most people had an initial response of “mmm, cookie good, nom,” subsequent Oreos started to seem intensely sweet, and the extra-creamy filling became little overpowering. The strawberry taste is also very artificial—several tasters likened it to Crunch Berries—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can become cloying after a while.
(And yes, of course we dipped the strawberry Oreos in the Chocovine.)
Bonus Round: After spying a warning on the back of the Chocovine cautioning us, “Do not mix with acidic drinks!,” it was clear what we had to do. Alas, Chang’s iron stomach was busy tackling hot dogs and beer at a Cubs game, which means the task fell to ever-game Ad Ops Guy Bret and Web Guru Jesse. Anyone who’s ever had a Cement Mixer shot (Bailey’s and lime juice) should have a pretty good idea of what went down.
• “Based on smell alone, I can tell this is going to be boozy.”
• “Holy shit, that’s the strongest wine I’ve ever had.”
• “I don’t think that’s wine at all.”
• “By ‘wine’ do they mean ‘vodka’?”
• “It must be really shitty wine if it smells like a White Russian.”
• “I can’t drink this anymore. And I’ll drink anything.”
• “The juxtaposition of chocolate and burning is really weird.”
• “Chocovine smells EXACTLY like Dunkin Donuts chocolate doughnuts. Same sort of vaguely burnt cocoa plus a ton of caramelized sugar.”
• “It tastes about like Kahlua to me. Which is never a bad thing. But it’s as thick as milk. I’m ready to try this on some cereal.”
• “It’s got a pretty fair kick.”
• “I’m mostly disappointed that it’s not chocolate milk. Also: I hate it.”
• “If they got that kid from YouTube to sing the ‘Chocolate Wine’ theme song, this stuff could be a big hit. (In advertising. Duh.)”
• “This is a huge time-saver. It can make you fat, drunk, and stupid all at the same time.”
• “Mostly, I don’t taste red wine in it at all. It’s kind of bargain-basement liqueur, but I don’t think it’s too bad.”
• “Tasted like knock-off Bailey’s. I feel like it could be a nice mixer in some kind of Christmas drink.”
• “The oenophile in me has got the vapors over this cheap wine defilement. Yet the 7 Eleven-frequenting slob in me is kicking the hell out of the oenophile right now. Finally, a tasty swill that will go with cheese pairings.”
• “Who hasn’t thought about combining Yoo-hoo and grain alcohol? I guess it takes a marketing genius to bottle and sell this crap.”
• “Compared to Kahlua, Godiva Liqueur, or Frango Mint Liqueur, this is very pedestrian. Think Swiss Miss, water, and cheap vodka.”
• “Heed the label’s warning about mixing with acidic liquids. Looks like something that came out of my butt.”
Strawberry Milkshake Crème Oreos
• “They taste like Crunch Berries.”
• “No, they taste like strawberry Runts.”
• “They don’t taste like strawberry, just generic fruit flavor.”
• “They’re really creamy.”
• “Because they’re fruit, is there more nutritional value in these?”
• “The filling is softer. It’s like Double Stuf by default.”
• “Decent, but nothing like an original Oreo.”
• “The aftertaste of the strawberry filling is still in my mouth. It was fine to eat but it tasted like Strawberry Nesquik. I didn’t like it as a kid and I certainly don’t like the similar aftertaste now.”
• “Strawberry milkshakes are served cold, preferably with straw-clogging hunks of fruit still in them. These Oreos, by contrast, are room temperature and clearly a sickly sweet, Dr. Moreau abomination that must be stopped.”
• “Finally, a sophisticated Oreo cookie. Reminds me of chocolate cake with strawberry frosting.”
• “The only negative things about this is the strawberry creme filling tastes a little artificial eaten alone, plus it’s a little fluffy for Oreos. However, with the cookie it’s very good.”
• “Watch me skip dinner and eat a box of these in bed. Oh, Nabisco, you know me too well.”
Where to get it: We found the Chocovine at the market/grocery/take-out place that we go for lunch nearly every day. (Stalk The A.V. Club!) Here’s a website that sells it: http://www.spirit76wines.com/r/products/chocovine-chocolate-wine-2004?id=nsession. The Oreos seem to have made their way to big grocery stores everywhere; we found them at Dominick’s.