Wine of the Week: Halloween candy and wine pairing

Given the cautious atmosphere this year, it might not be unusual to see fewer trick-or-treaters knocking on doors this Halloween. But that’s not going to stop me from buying gobs of my favorite treats to have on hand should the occasional ghoul or goblin ring my doorbell for a socially-distanced-delivered treat.

The downside to this strategy is that I could very well be left holding my own bag … of candy — which is great for my dentist and terrible for my waistline.

Still, I can’t just let my stockpile of sugary sweetness languish in the large plastic pumpkin on the counter all by itself. So, what is a candy-loving-wine-lover to do? Well, how about pair the leftover confections with wine?

Trust me, this is no trick, but a genuine treat that you’ll have fun experimenting with long after the doorbell stops ringing.

My favorite Halloween candy is Baby Ruth, hands down. I love how the creamy caramel is the perfect textural counterpoint to the crunchy roasted peanuts, all held together by the cohesive bond of milk chocolate.

This slightly salty, slightly buttery-rich combination demands a wine that can play at both ends of the palate. So I’m going with the 1996 Broadbent Colheita Madeira from Portugal.

The traditional Portuguese dessert wine pairs well with the nutty, gooey chocolate nougat in the Baby Ruth, bringing out the nutty notes and maple and brown sugar tones in the wine. $45

My second-favorite Halloween treat is Kit Kat, and I’m going with pinot noir all the way. Although the variations of pinot noir can be dramatic, they always tend to carry a tense and nuanced red fruit quality.

This makes the milk chocolate and wafer combo feel like a chocolate-dipped raspberry pulled straight out of the fridge. I’d suggest going with a terroir-driven pinot noir, like those from Sonoma Coast, that will bring out earthiness and tannin for a more complex pairing.

Tannin is mellowed by the chocolate, and the earthy qualities can create an umami-flavored effect. For example, the fruit for the 2017 Hirsch “San Andreas Fault” Pinot Noir comes from 32 distinct farming blocks.

The resulting wine has intense aromas of bramble and dark cherries on the nose. They are joined in by bright red raspberries, dark strawberries and red cherries in the mouth. The elegant finish is lengthy and captivating. $60

Snickers is a bold candy bursting with nougat, peanuts, chocolate and caramel. Tie it in with Hungary’s flagship dessert wine Tokaji and you have a double treat. As one of the oldest regulated wines in production, Tokaji can be just as bold and sweet as the Snickers itself.

Its varying levels of sweetness are described as “puttonyos” or “baskets.” Try a wine with five puttonyos to get the full effect. The wine carries its own nutty, honey characteristics that will match up to the Snickers’ caramel like close cousins.

The wine I like with Snickers is the 2016 Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Red Label, a Hungarian sweet wine. Tokaji (pronounced Tokay) wines have been considered one of the world’s greatest dessert wines since the Middle Ages.

Wines labeled Aszú are made from late-harvest, botrytis-affected Furmint grapes with a small percentage of Muscat. The apricot, kumquat and honey flavors are tinged by roasted nuts in this medium-sweet white wine.

Racy acidity keeps it fresh and lively on the lingering finish. $50 for 500 ml

Of course, many Halloween candy aficionados consider the Hershey’s Chocolate Bar to be the classic treat. When you’re dealing with milk chocolate, you have to find a wine that is powerful but light on its feet.

It needs enough presence to punch through the cocoa, yet nimble enough to dance around the creamy milkiness enveloping your palate. Syrah can range in body and texture, but you will typically find black pepper and black fruit — both are willing companions to chocolate.

I am a personal fan of the 2018 Michael David Sixth Sense Syrah from Lodi, California. This velvety syrah opens with aromas of ripe blackberry, boysenberry and fig laced with dark chocolate and allspice.

Full-bodied with noticeable tannins, flavors of black raspberry, coffee bean and tobacco are layered throughout the lingering finish. $14

With a candy as smooth and textured as a 3 Musketeers bar, you want a glass of wine that can carry its own weight without taking over. I think Champagne is built for this candy bar. The bubbly effervescence highlights and tames the rich nougat at the same time.

I recommend going with a completely dry Champagne in order to highlight the velvety feel of the nougat, and counterbalance the sweetness of the chocolate.

The Non-Vintage Bollinger Special Cuvee is a full-bodied and luscious blend of pinot noir and Chardonnay that demonstrates the subtle balance between liveliness and ripeness that Bollinger is known for.

The fragrant scents of green apple and buttered toast on the nose lead to flavors of baked apple, ripe pear, roasted hazelnuts and candied ginger on the palate. The structure is full-bodied and the finish, featuring notes of toasted almonds, is round and full. $60

Twix, in my opinion, is a first cousin of Kit Kat, but I would veer more toward something with a bit more caramel bite in the wine to carry through the caramel theme in the candy.

I really like a rich Pedro Ximenez Sherry from Spain, which typically features rich elements of toasted nut and honey, perfect to walk side-by-side with this caramel-coated cookie treat. The Alvear “1927” Pedro Ximenez Solera from Spain is rich and syrupy.

This amber-colored sherry is made from a solera dating back to 1927 and shows tones of caramel, honey-covered almond, toffee, molasses and coffee. The wine feels silky and smooth with a long superrich finish. $30 for 375 ml

Whenever I eat Junior Mints, I am immediately transported to the movie theaters of my youth. The old-timey candy, invented in 1949, has a miniature cool mint core surrounded by dark chocolate.

They were — and still are — both refreshing and satisfying and call out for a wine that can both mimic and complement the dual combination of flavors. That means Australian Shiraz! Chocolate and mint were made for Australian Shiraz.

The 2016 Kilikanoon Killermans Run Shiraz from Clare Valley, located in South Australia, is a big, chewy shiraz (known as syrah in other parts of the world) that has a nose highlighting scents of ripe black plums, crème de cassis and dark chocolate.

The powerful, full-throttled flavors of black cherries, jammy blackberries, mocha, mint and chocolate combine to give your tongue sensory overload. The whisper of additional mint on the long, commanding finish demands another handful of Junior Mints. $20

And last, but not least, the classic dark chocolate candy bar. My mom was the Queen of Dark Chocolate. She always had a stash of dark chocolate treats on hand to share. She claimed that dark chocolate had valuable health benefits. She was a woman ahead of her time.

To this day, whenever I have a bite of dark chocolate, pleasant memories of a wonderful woman come along for the sensory ride. And while she did not drink, I am sure I could have persuaded her to try a sip of Vintage Port to enhance the candy experience.

Interestingly enough, Vintage Ports account for only 2% of all port wine produced and are only given the “vintage” designation in the best years. The 2016 Fonseca Vintage Port has a deep rich red color and a full-bodied frame.

Powerful notes of blueberry compote, dark plum, blackberry and fig fruit combine for a one-two punch on the tongue. The finish features dark chocolate and blackberry liqueur and would be perfectly at home with a roaring fire, a good book, and a big chunk of dark chocolate. $95


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