Story by Dave Eckert
Well, it’s that time of year again, when all the mini ghouls and goblins to run amok in your neighborhood in search of Halloween treats. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the sound of the tiny footsteps, a ringing doorbell, and chants of “Trick or Treat!” with a glass of wine or two. For quality assurance purposes only, I am forced on Halloween night to sample the candy we’re doling out. So, naturally, I have some thoughts on what wine(s) you should be drinking for that ultimate Halloween candy match.
Most of the articles I’ve read on candy and wine pairings refer to specific types of candy: Hershey’s, Kit Kat, Reese’s, Skittles, etc. I prefer to take a more categorical approach: Chocolate, chocolate with nuts, peanut butter or nougat, gummy and sweet, etc.. I find this approach eases the pressure on selecting that “perfect” wine while also allowing you to enjoy a broader selection of both the candy and the vino. Isn’t that the whole point? Here we go.
SWEET AND TART
From the original Sweet Tarts to the myriad of sour gummy options now available, this is my last choice of candy, but one of my favorite categories for pairing wine because it allows me to consume a wine I truly love-Rosé. I’ve said many times that Rosés are among the most flexible food wines around. A bottle on Halloween night will prove my point. Packed with ripe red fruit flavors and buttressed by bracing acidity, a good dry Rosé will handle all the sweet and tart flavored candies you throw at it and bring you back for another sip. Try the Backsberg Estate Cellars Pinotage Rosé from Paarl, South Africa. It’s imported by Kansas City’s own Marquee Selections. It’s affordable at just $12.99 (SRP) and is lip-smackingly delicious!
As an alternative, you could pop open a bottle of sparkling wine as they too are able to complement a wide range of food. I wouldn’t waste my money on Champagne or other high-end sparkling options, but, rather, grab a bottle of Bouvet Brut Signature. At $12.25 (SRP), this Loire Valley, France sparkler has been pleasing palates for generations!
GUMMY AND SWEET
I LOVE these candies: Dots, Mike and Ikes, Jujy Fruits, Swedish Fish, Skittles-you name it. If it sticks to your teeth and requires major tongue action to dislodge, I’m all in.
As for my wine preferences with these gummy delights, I like white wines, specifically Sauvignon Blancs, and even more specifically, domestic Sauvignon Blancs. New Zealand SBs pack too much grapefruit. French versions dry out the palate and make the candy taste sour. But, domestic Sauvignon Blancs have all the acid you need to cleanse your palate with just a hint of sweetness to complement the candy. I’ve got three recommendations here: Dry Creek Vineyard’s Fume Blanc $18 (SRP), Decoy Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc $15 (SRP), and B.R. Cohn Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc $15 (SRP). All are widely available, fairly priced, and perfect to cut through the sugary goodness of that gummy candy.
My general rule of thumb for pairing wine and chocolate is Port. A simple and inexpensive Ruby Port with straight up chocolate is delicious. But, consuming a high alcohol port with your Halloween candy might leave you passed out on the couch before the festivities are over, so I’m recommending some lower octane options: Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.
First, Carmenere, the signature grape of Chile, which hopped over to South America from its native region of Bordeaux, France. Carmenere, with its silky smooth flavors, medium body, and slightly smoky character, is my number one wine pick for barbecue, but I’ve found those characteristics serve it well with chocolate too. Two Carmeneres I’ve had recently that I would highly recommend are the Cono Sur Bicicleta $10.99 (SRP) and San Pedro’s 1865 Single Vineyard Carmenere $13.99 (SRP).
For Cabernet Sauvignon, I’d go with one that’s higher in fruit and lower in mouth-drying tannins. One I’ve enjoyed recently is the 1000 Stories Prospectors Proof Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99 (SRP). It’s got smoke and caramel on the nose and tons of fruit in the mouth-perfect for that straight shot of chocolate!
Chronic Cellars is doing some fun wines out of Paso Robles, and both the labels and the blends are perfect for Halloween. I especially enjoy their Zinfandel-based blend called Dead Nuts $25 (SRP), which adds Petite Syrah, Tempranillo, and Alicante Bouschet to the mix. As cherries, strawberries, and blackberries envelope the palate, aromas of cherry pie dominate the nose. I’d recommend this with chocolate-covered cherries, but no one gives those out on Halloween, so just settle for a Hershey’s bar. You’ll be fine!
CHOCOLATE WITH NUTS, PEANUT BUTTER, OR NOUGAT
Again, this isn’t my favorite category of candy as I don’t know why you would want or need to gum up perfectly good chocolate with nuts or peanut butter. But I’m not here to critique candy: I’m here to make your candy consumption more pleasurable.
For all three chocolate corruptions (there I go again), I’d suggest Pinot Noir. Pinots, well-made Pinots anyway, have enough fruit to complement the chocolate and enough earthiness to handle the additional nuts, peanut butter, or nougat. Try the Cherry Pie Tri-County Pinot $22.99 (SRP), which unabashedly announces its fruitiness in its name, the Firesteed Wilamette Valley, Oregon Pinot $16.99 (SRP), or the Storypoint Pinot Noir $20 (SRP). The Cherry Pie is the fruitiest, the Firesteed the driest, and the Storypoint like a 200-yard drive down the middle of the fairway. In other words, it’ll get you where you want to go.
There you have it, some thoughts on how to make this Halloween as much fun for you as it is for the kids. Cheers!