It’s almost Halloween, also known as the time of year when wine writers attempt to convince readers that pairing wine with Halloween candy is a good idea. We have to confess: it probably won’t be as good as you imagine. There’s a better way to satisfy your sweet tooth, and that’s by seeking out sugar inside the glass. Leave the candy bars to the trick-or-treaters and upgrade to an adult Halloween with some of our favorite dessert wines.
Yes, the argument can be made that pairing candy with fruity, low-tannin wines could lead to some successful combinations. But the beauty of wine and food pairing is that the pairing should enhance both the dish and the wine. In this case, the wine will make the candy seem lackluster, and the candy will make the wine seem harsh. Though the pairing may end up being “all right,” both the wine and the candy probably would have tasted better separately.
If you absolutely insist on trying candy-pairing experiments this year, dessert wines are still the way to go. When pairing, a good rule of thumb is to select a wine that is sweeter than the food, since sugar in food will make wine seem less sweet. To keep from being completely overwhelmed by sugar, look for dessert wines that have high acidity to balance the sweetness.
Below are five of our top picks for the upcoming holiday, so put down that Snickers bar! We guarantee that pouring one of these into your glass will make this Halloween even better than when you were a kid.
2012 Atwater Estate “Celsius” Ice Wine, Finger Lakes, N.Y. ($22.99 for 375mL) Like a liquid lemon drop, but better! Made from late-harvest vignoles grapes that are then frozen and pressed for increased concentration, this wine tastes like Meyer lemons and mouthwatering, juicy pineapple. Despite the sugar, it remains insanely refreshing and absolutely delicious.
2006 Weingut Heribert Boch “Trittenheimer Apotheke” Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel, Germany ($30.99 for 375mL) It may sound crazy, but moldy grapes can make the most outstanding wine. That’s right — this rare wine is made from grapes affected by botrytis, a special type of mold, requiring pickers to select individual berries from late-harvested bunches. Often this also involves picking through the steep, chilly vineyards three or more times in a season, which may explain the high price tag. But trust us, it’s worth it. Concentrated flavors of candied peach, orange blossom, and bright purple flowers last long after the final sip. We could drink this forever.
NV Quinta da Alorna “Abafado 5 Years,” Tejo, Portugal ($15.99 for 750mL) Caramel lovers, meet your new best friend. This wine from central Portugal is fortified and aged for five years in old barrels, resulting in a rich, yet balanced, sweet wine tasting of caramelized nuts, dried apricot, and a bit of baking spice. An excellent budget alternative to tawny port.
NV Niepoort Ruby, Porto, Portugal ($16.99 for 750mL) This is one of the most classic versions of ruby port: juicy and vibrant, with flavors of sweet black cherry and chocolate. Though it’s powerful, this wine is quite easy-drinking as well. For fans of chocolate-covered fruit (cherry cordials, anyone?), the Niepoort Ruby Port is all you.
NV Bodegas Grant “La Garrocha” Amontillado, Jerez, Spain ($15.99 for 375mL) Some people just aren’t “candy people,” and for those people, Halloween probably isn’t the highlight of the year. But guess what? There’s a dessert wine for those unsweetened chocolate bar lovers, too! This amontillado has all of the nutty, rich caramel flavors that we love, but without the sugar, and plenty of acidity to keep it from being dull. It’s our go-to indulgence not just for Halloween, but for the entire cold-weather season as well. Stock up for winter now!