How to Pair Booze With Halloween Candy

Sommeliers around town show us how to make the most of that Three Musketeers bar.

Next time you have candy corn, why not try some sherry? Photos via ThinkStock.

It’s hard to stay healthy in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Every time you turn a corner, there’s a bowl of candy or a tray of orange-studded confections. Sure, you might resist that Snickers before lunch, but by three o’clock you’re downing a box of Nerds and pocketing a handful of peanut butter cups. Resistance is futile, so why not get a buzz, too?  I asked some of the best wine minds around Boston for pairing ideas for every type of sugary escape. They came up a variety of incredible bottles to compliment all the savory, chewy, chocolatey, nougat-stuffed classics of the season. So turn off your porch light before the Trick or Treaters arrive en masse, pop a couple of corks, and enjoy Halloween the right way.


Sandy Block is the VP of Beverage Operations for Legal Sea Foods and was the first American Master Sommelier on the East Coast. He tackled the classic popcorn ball, the treat that is ubiquitous with Halloween. There are slight variations out there, but we focused on a traditional recipe that binds popcorn with heaping amount of sugar and corn syrup.

Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, CA: “There are so many synergies between the flavors and textures that this one is a natural: there’s a creamed corn, buttery, toasty vanilla element to the Chardonnay’s flavors that echo what you’re getting in the popcorn balls. Its body is full and lush, and there’s a good bit of nut-like spice in the wine to balance some of the sweetness you taste in the food.”

Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti “Nivole”, Piedmont, Italy: “This one is very light (5.5% alcohol), delicately frizzante, with ripe peach and jasmine notes, and some delicate balanced sweet flavors. The sugar on sugar match would be delightful, and the slight effervescence should leave your palate refreshed.”


Liz Vilardi is a Texas transplant with some mean wine chops. It would be incredible if she found free-time in her schedule as wine buyer and co-owner at Belly Wine Bar, The Blue Room and Central Bottle, all located in Cambridge. Vilardi took her assignment very seriously, slowly making her way through a bag of Brach’s “Autumn Mix” to find some wines that could hold up to the high levels of sweetness in those waxy little dollops of sugar.

El Maestro Sierra Oloroso, 15 Años Jerez, Spain: “I realized that essentially these guys are cloying like fat. How do we like to cut fat? With acidity in wine. The dry, walnut notes of the oloroso and the ever so slight caramel qualities of the sherry, with its high acid, complimented the candy coating that my mouth was subjected to. It made the candy corn seem less sweet and actually brought about saltiness and, dare I say it, a butteriness that was nice.”

Chateau Romieu-Lacoste Sauternes 2009 Bordeaux, France: “My second choice makes me laugh! Leave it to candy corn to enjoy being paired with one of the most expensive dessert wines around – sauternes. Granted, Kermit Lynch (importer) has been kind enough to keep us from needing Chateau d’Yquem to make our pairing. On its own, it’s concentrated and lush with notes of honey, lemon peel and pears. It’s ethereal and lacy with some good citrus acidity. While this wine is less dry and more on the ripe side, it is this bit of acidity that helps us take on the ultra sweet candy corn. The really funky thing that happens is that the candy corn takes on a mintiness. It’s weird but kind of cool in a junior mint sort of way!”


Felisha Foster is the former wine buyer for Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square, and her eclectic palate has Somerville buzzing about her forthcoming wine bar, Spoke, opening in December. She chose the simultaneously gooey and crisp combination of a caramel covered apple, the carney staple that’s okay to admit coveting in October.

Leitz Dragonstone Riesling 2011, Rheingau, Germany. “This super affordable riesling has zesty lime, peach and pink grapefruit notes with subtle notes of cinnamon spice, salt and wet stones. It’s a perfect balance of residual sugar and acidity.”

NV Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco, Veneto, Italy. “Nino Franco is a light-bodied prosecco that has really fresh, lively fruit notes of peach, citrus and even a slight nuttiness. It has a nice crisp, persistent finish. Both these wines are fruit driven with good acidity that balances the bright apple fruit and the sweetness of the caramel.”


Chris Campbell is the owner/proprietor of Troquet, whose fantastic wine selection has earned countless awards and been listed as one of Wine Enthusiast‘s 100 Best Wine Restaurants. Chris looked to his extensive by-the-glass list to compliment the roasted rewards of a freshly gutted pumpkin.

Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2010, Mosel, Germany: “Every time that I have had roasted pumpkin seeds they have been salted. So with all salty snacks I suggest higher acid wines with just a little bit of sweetness. I think they would be a great pair with this Dr. Loosen Kabinett. It’s a lighter-style riesling with good acidity and more of a tropical fruitiness than a sweetness.”


At o ya, Alyssa DiPasquale, along with her mentor, sake sommelier Nancy Cushman, run one of the most respected sake programs anywhere in the U.S. DiPasquale and Cushman shared their picks for sakes that pair with pop rocks and 3 Musketeers.

Poochi Poochi Sparkling Sake: “Poochi Poochi is a dry sparkling sake with a hint of melon and yogurt-like sweetness. We chose the Cotton Candy Pop Rocks because they have the same sweetness without any tart flavor (like a strawberry or a watermelon can have). Beware! The pops get bigger when you drink the sake!”

Rihaku Dreamy Clouds: “This is an dry, nigori sake. Nigori means that the sake is unfiltered and the rice lees are left in the bottle, which creates a creamy texture. The Dreamy Clouds extends to the creamy nougat flavor in the center in a 3 Musketeers bar.”


Patz & Hall Chard Sonoma Coast-Legal Seafoods, Blanchard’s

Michele Chiarlo Moscato-Legal Seafoods

El Maestro Sierra Oloroso-Central Bottle, The Wine Bottega

Chateau Romieu-Lacoste– Central Bottle, The Wine Bottega

Leitz Dragonstone Riesling-Central Bottle, The Wine Bottega, Dave’s Fresh Pasta

NV Nino Frano Prosecco– Blanchard’s,  Dave’ Fresh Pasta

Dr. Loosen Urziger Kabinett -Troquet

Rihaku Dreamy Clouds-o ya, Ball Square Fine Wines & Liquors

Poochi Poochi Sparkling Sake-o ya, Ball Square Fine Wines & Liquors

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