How to Pair Wine with Halloween Candy
Some of Boston’s most respected oenophiles showed us the best bottles to pair with everything sweet, sour, and savory.
Here’s something you might not have guessed: the same sommeliers matching Cru Beaujolais and opaque orange wines with haute cuisine aren’t opposed to applying that same logic to the spoils of Halloween. In fact, what I’ve discovered is that those same wine zealots—yes, those unnerving oenophiles prone to loquacious screeds on terroir and champagne sabering—often have an insatiable sweet tooth that goes beyond the trick-or-treating season.
That’s why I’ve asked some of Boston’s top wine professionals to tell me not only their favorite bottles of vino to sip on this autumn, but which classic Halloween candies pair best with them. The same minds behind Ken Oringer and Ana Sortun’s wine lists took the challenge seriously, eschewing basic combinations like port and chocolate or pinot noir and peanut butter. Instead, they took the opportunity to promote up-and-coming regions like New York’s Finger Lakes and France’s Jura in conjunction with peach gummy rings and strawberry Nerds. Unbeknownst to one another, Kai Gagnon and Jonathan Fenelon even selected the same quirky bottle of bubbles to pair with different fruity confections.
Here, in their own words, are the best and booziest ways to celebrate Halloween:
Jonathan Fenelon: Beverage Director at Clio and Uni
Nerds (Strawberry and Grape Combo)
Domaine Renardet-Fache Bugey-Cerdon NV, Jura, France
“Nerds are sugar bombs, so they need a wine that can wrestle the intense sweetness with acid and effervescence. This Bugey offering, made with Gamay and Poulsard grapes, has this perfect balance of fresh fruit and acid, which elevates the candy with levity and freshness. On the foothills of Jura, these steep, southeastern slopes receive a generous amount of sun that allows the grapes to fully develop and ripen. That gentle sun exposure helps draw out a plethora of fruit notes including strawberries, raspberries, and currants.”
Boundary Breaks, Single Clone No. 90 Late Harvest Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York
“Candy corn has always been one of my favorite classic Halloween candies. On its own, it has a generous, creamy sweetness that is sustained on the palate. It needs a wine that has an opulent, luxurious texture, that will not only linger, but match the residual sugar. Boundary Breaks Late Harvest is a single clone, single-vineyard Riesling that is stunningly complex. Pairing candy corn with it actually helps support the wine’s beautiful notes of honey, tropical fruit, and flowers.”
Raventos I Blanc “L’Herau de Nit” Brut Reserva Rose Cava, Catalunya, Spain
“Candy cigarettes have always been the candy that I hated to love, but did, nonetheless. The first bite of the—usually old, and therefore rock-hard—bubble gum gives you a quick hit of strawberry and cherry flavor that quickly dissipates. This affordable sparkler picks up where the cigarette leaves off, sustaining it with notes of dried raspberry and a silky mousseline texture. This Cava is a sensual, sexy, and alluring rose.”
Lauren Friel: Wine Director at Oleana and Sarma
KEO Commandaria “St John,” Cyprus, Greece
“I’m fairly certain my enthusiasm for Mary Janes put my dentist’s kids through college. I like a little savory with my sweets, and that sticky little nugget of peanut butter and molasses taffy has it all: salty, malty, and nutty. Plus it’s made just up the road in Revere. The Commandaria is a Cypriot wine, but its smell always reminds me of the candied almond carts on the Common in December; it packs a lot of the same balance of toffee and molasses notes with a toasted, savory finish. Together, the earthiness of the molasses in the candy really comes out and gets you an even deeper, more sultry expression from the wine. Total indulgence. Call your dentist.”
Michel Gahier Vin Jaune, Arbois, Jura, France
“This is a totally grown-up pairing for the kid in me. Vin Jaune was my “Ah ha!” wine—it was the wine that made me want to do what I do now, and I love the idea of enjoying it next to something that was such a joy for me growing up. Vin Jaune has this incredible balance of tenacity and elegance. It’s a very meditative kind of wine, and I love the way its structure pulls nuance and complexity out of the simple pleasures of sweet apple and buttery caramel. It’s a really fun juxtaposition. Sometimes the best pairings are as much about sentiment as flavor.”
Kai Gagnon: Wine Director at Bergamot and BISq
Jelly Belly Sours
Domaine Renardet-Fache Bugey-Cerdon NV, Jura, France
“This pairing combines two of my favorite things: sour candy and sparkling wine. Bugey is sweet and tart by itself, with part of the primary fermentation taking place in the bottle. It’s a naturally sparking wine, or pétillant naturel, made in the French region of Savoie near the Swiss border. It’s very refreshing and naturally low in alcohol, so you won’t end up in that nasty sugar-high-meets-wine-buzz purgatory. This one’s all about texture—like Pop Rocks without actually having to eat them.”
Take 5 Candy Bars
Château Le Payral Saussignac “Cuvée Marie-Jeanne,” Bergerac, France
“Take 5 is a brilliant candy bar because it boasts that perfect combination of salty and sweet. You have caramel, pretzels, peanuts, peanut butter, and chocolate in every bite. This is like pairing wine with an actual dessert—where you have multiple combinations of flavors to think about. Saussignac, like it’s better-known cousin Sauternes, is a sweet white wine from Southwestern France made largely from Semillon grapes infected by botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. This wine is sweet, has tons of natural acidity, and is very floral and complex. The sweet-salty-nutty in the candy bar pulls all those aspects of the wine straight to center stage.”
Jen Fields: Wine Director at Alden & Harlow
Malabaila di Canale Birbet Brachetto, Piedmont, Italy
“What native of Piedmont wouldn’t be proud of this combo? Honestly, I love Twizzlers’ muted, artificial strawberry flavor and the fact that they aren’t overly sweet or rich. They’re simple and fun to mindlessly nibble on. Wine wise, I think many Brachettos are similar—not overly complex with bright berry notes and a sweet, but not cloying character. While both are tasty in their own right, neither has a level of sweetness that would overpower the other. Bonus points for Twizzlers having a hollow middle, which makes for a delicious edible wine straw.”
Haribo Peach Gummy Rings
Pacific Rim “Vin de Glaciere” Riesling, Yakima Valley, Washington
“I seriously love peach gummy rings: the tartness from the citric acid powder that transitions into subtle flavors of artificial stone fruit, followed by lingering sweetness and a pleasant, gummy texture. I like to pair them with American ice wines, preferably of the synthetic ‘icebox/cryogenic’ variety. While classic, vine-frozen examples can be highly prized for their intense and botrytized concentration, I find that when eating a synthetically flavored gummy, you want the wine world’s manufactured equivalent. Pacific Rim has a lovely acidity and concentrated flavors of ripe lychee and peach that linger on the palate. Most importantly, it’s a tad bit sweeter than the gummy rings, which is the real trick to pairing wine with dessert.”
Where to buy these wines:
Central Bottle Wine + Provisions- 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-225-0040 or centralbottle.com.
Social Wines- 52 W. Broadway, Boston; 617-268-2974 or socialwinesbos.com.
Streetcar Wine & Bar- 488 Centre St., Boston; 617-522-6416 or streetcarwines.com.