Some serious shenanigans are about to go down at the end of the month. The freewheeling, uninhibited young adult population will lead the way as a beacon of hope, continuing Halloween house party traditions. You’ll probably see a Donald Trump or two, some Game of Thrones characters, and maybe even a Kim Davis. But if boozy cacophony is not your speed, fret not and retreat henceforth.
If you haven’t noticed, candy is everywhere right now — and it should be in your mouth. As luck would have it, wine is a perfect beverage to accompany a sweet tooth. Okay, it’s unconventional, but it pairs better than beer and bourbon with the output of the corporate chocolate machine.
First things first. Wine tastes the best a) when you like that style of wine you’re drinking, and b) when it complements the flavors of the food, generally by being more dominant than the food flavors.
So generally, sweet wine works best.
But if you’re stuck on dry wines, seek out some west coast merlot. Franciscan’s 2012 merlot is a strong pick to go with your Snickers bar. 2012 was a ripe vintage, so the big, dense flavors of red raspberry, cocoa and black cherry are obvious. Franciscan’s $20 treat also keeps the alcohol in check, which can be dominating in wines like these.
If you’re the type of Halloween zombie who prefers Twix over Snickers, maybe consider getting a ruby port. Quinta do Noval’s Black Ruby Port is also about $20. The fun bonus with port is that the wine will not get oxidative and funky as quickly as normal table wine.
Port is a style of wine that starts out like other wines, in that sugars in recently harvested grapes get converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the work of yeasts. The second step — that makes port the wine we know and love — is the addition of a neutral grape brandy to the notcompletely-fermented wine. This makes port a touch higher in alcohol and also stabilizes it, so you can maximize some serious deliciousness over the month.
Quinta do Noval is often considered a top 10 port house, and their modern style of ruby port (aged in stainless steel, unlike tawny port, which is aged wooden barrels) is lush with flavors like deep, cassis-like compote and chocolate covered cherries.
For the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup freaks, consider one of the most lambasted wine styles ever: sherry. Yes, sherry has an antiquated image problem. In many circles its considered the wine equivalent of your grandparents yelling at the television while Wilford Brimley nods sternly with his arms crossed. But seriously, there are some crazy great deals out there, and none are more painfully obvious than the absurd quality put in bottle by Emilio Lustau.
The Lustau Superior Cream Sherry, at just $25, is another gem which will keep for a few weeks. Loads of sweetness abounds, with figs, walnuts and slightly nutty notes. You could probably pour this on your waffles too, and it would fit right in with that butter.
Of course, there’s always candy corn. With these confections, it’s best to avoid wine with chocolate undertones. Candy corn is as a good of an excuse as any to drink Sauternes. From a small collection of communes just south of the city of Bordeaux, France, this wine is golden-hued, floral and overall one of the more interesting sweet treats of the wine world. Sauternes quality can vary, but when you find the good ones, there’s no going back. If you’re planning a special night, take a look at Clos Haut-Peyraguey Sauternes. The 2008 and 2009 vintages should both be floating out there in the market at $20 per half bottle or about $40 for a full bottle.
This reasonably small estate is just a stone’s throw away from Chateau d’Yquem, perhaps the best sweet wine producer in the world. At about a seventh of the cost of Chateau d’Yquem’s offerings, Clos Haut-Peyraguey’s Sauternes is a steal. The complexity is insane, and it’s just so damned pretty. It smells like some sort of orange marmalade/crème brulee hybrid, and it tastes like the best version these being served to you in a field of honeysuckle. Sounds ridiculous, right? This is dessert wine that’s easy to fall in love with.
Justin King is a certified sommelier and resident of Williamston. He is part-owner of Bridge Street Social, a restaurant opening this winter in DeWitt. Email him fun wine pairing ideas at email@example.com.