The term Rancio emerged the other day, and I wanted to address the question as it is a bit ambiguous and used for a variety of wines and beverages. We came across this term as an ingredient in a cocktail, and it was simply printed on the menu as "Rancio". I have never really seen it referred to this way, more often I am used to seeing it as a descriptive reference for flavors and aromatics in certain wines - especially those that have been aged in warm and oxidative conditions for a long period of time.
I knew what the ingredient notation was referencing - most likely a wine from southern France that comes from or around the Banyuls region, but it was not clearly defined on the menu as there was no brand associated with the listing. The impact on the drink was relatively mild, but certainly there were some nutty flavors and aromatics there that the creator of the drink was looking for, and also mouthfeel, which is perhaps the most important characteristic of the Rancio Wine used. Keep in mind, this was very nearly the same aromatics that some sherry or even port wine could also produce in the cocktails, but the texture was not necessarily something these other wines could bring to the equation. Cudos for going the extra step toward unique.
Here is the Oxford definition of Rancio. You can see that there are multiple wine categories that make use of the term and that it is used to cover a wide range of stylistic imprints - all though having to do with some form of severely aged process - but always under controlled conditions. The effect can be tremendous and produce unique wines with long lives to be enjoyed - either in a drink or simply on their own.
From The Oxford Companion to Wine (online edition)
Rancio, imprecise tasting term used in many languages for a distinctive style of wine, often fortified wine or vin doux naturel, achieved by deliberately maderizing the wine by exposing it to oxygen and/or heat. The wine may be stored in barrels in hot storehouses (as for some of Australia's topaque and muscat), or immediately under the rafters in a hot climate (as for some of roussillon's vins doux naturels), or in glass bonbonnes left out of doors and subjected to the changing temperatures of night and day (as in parts of Spain). The word rancio has the same root as ‘rancid’ and the wines which result have an additional and powerful smell reminiscent of overripe fruit, nuts, and melted, or even rancid, butter.
Key flavour compounds identified in aged vin doux naturel wines arise by maillard reaction of sugars with amino acids and by oxidation. These compounds are known to be present in, and responsible for, the characteristic flavour of other sweet food products. Thus, for example, furaneol, cyclotene, maltol, sotolon, which are known contributors to the flavour of honey and caramelized sugar products, have been found in these wines along with several lactones that are important to the flavour of dried fruits.
This richness emerges in a complex series of sensations on the nose and palate. ‘Rankness, a special character of fullness and richness’, was the unflattering description given by Charles Walter Berry, the wine merchant who was Britain's leading cognac connoisseur between the World Wars (rancio can often be found in oak-aged brandies). This richness, allied to a certain mild cheesiness in the nose, reminds some tasters of Roquefort cheese. But the richness, depth, and diversity of rancio can remind others of rich fruit cakes with their flavours of candied fruits, apricots, sultanas, almonds, and walnuts.
It is a weird relationship - chocolate and wine, that is. There is a lot of tannin involved in a tasting of these two products, and when you compound any component, it can often become intense, sometimes to the point of unpleasantness. Depending on the sweetness level int he chocolate, and the fruit component of the wine, there can be outstanding matches, though. The main thing to consider is the overall sugar level in the mouth, and the back-up fruit (often berries with red wine) supporting the sugar.
Often a fruit driven, sapid, red with rich fruit and lower tannins will work best with rich and decadent chocolates. Think Aussie shiraz with 65% dark. Here are other suggestions on how to maximize your tasting experience.
TASTING WINE AND CHOCOLATE
Taste wine from lightest to darkest, similar to how you would taste the chocolate.
Milk Chocolate (less than 50% Cocoa) Pairs with:
Smooth Dark Chocolate (+50% Cocoa) Pairs with:
Medium Dark Chocolate (+60% Cocoa) Pairs with:
Extra Dark Chocolate (+70% Cocoa) Pairs with:
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