Drinks

The Natural Wines You Need to Pair with Halloween Candy

Little Donkey wine director Jodie Battles shares all her tricks and treats.


Halloween natural wine and candy pairings Little Donkey

Boston magazine photo

Imagine that you’re sitting at home on All Hallows’ Eve, carving pumpkins with your friends, and every time you open the door for a trick-or-treater, you’re greeted by another bedsheet ghost. Without creative costumes and the stories they tell about the kids wearing them, Halloween would be a little less fun, right?

Jodie Battles feels a similar way about wine. Wine director for Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s JK Food Group Boston restaurants—Coppa, Toro, and Little Donkey—Battles curates her wine lists with the goal of offering a spectrum of flavors, based on relationships with winemakers that go beyond taste. “Our philosophy has always been about the people behind the wines,” she says. “These are individuals who are out there in the vines, making these wines, as opposed to big conglomerates.”

Nowhere is that philosophy more front-and-center than at the globe-trotting Little Donkey, which offers a 100 percent natural and small producer-made wine list. So in the spirit of the season, we had Battles pick five of her below-the-radar favorite natural wines from the Little Donkey list, to pair with the classic candies we’ll be sharing with trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Here are the oenophile’s thoughts, along with where to buy the wines locally this season.

Candy corn - Arnaud Lambert Breze Blanc

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Arnaud Lambert “Brézé Blanc”
Pair with: Candy Corn

Second-generation Loire Valley winemaker Arnaud Lambert has a certified organic vineyard in Brézé, whose soil has a significant presence of a certain porous, chalky limestone, which imparts finely mineral flavors to his grapes. This sparkling Chenin blanc/Chardonnay blend is a great foil for the old-school treat, candy corn. “Clean and bright flavors mellow the sweetness of the candy,” Battles says, “and the prickling bubbles work really well against the waxy texture.”

Buy it: $24, Social Wines, 52 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-268-2974; 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-225-0040, socialwinesbos.com.

Twix - Joe Swick “Bring it” Red

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Joe Swick “Bring it” Red
Pair with: Twix

Native Portlander Joe Swick established his winery in the Willamette Valley in 2013, a decade after he first tasted Oregon wines. He sources grapes solely from non-irrigated, cooler climate locations around the region, and this medium-bodied red is a blend of all the varieties he uses: Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Malbec and Graciano from Yakima, Washington; and pinot noir and skin-contact pinot gris from the Willamette Valley. “Sounds a bit intimidating, but the wine is focused, fresh, and great with a bit of a chill,” Battles says. “With loads of dried berries and just a hint of spice, this is really fun with the sweet/salty/crunchy flavors of Twix.”

Buy it: $23, Pemberton Farms, 2225 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-491-2244, pembertonfarms.com; Steetcar Wines, 88 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6416, streetcarwines.com.

Kit Kat - Francois de Nicolay Coteaux de Champlitte Burgundy

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Francois de Nicolay “Coteaux de Champlitte” Pinot Noir
Pair with: Kit Kat

These Burgundian winemakers have been doing it since 1834, dynamically since 2005, and fully certified organic since 2011. All their grapes are hand-harvested, and their soils are oxygenated in the traditional method with the use of their own plough horses. In the case of this pinot noir, these methods yield some pretty rustic flavors. “Earthy, wet leaves, wild strawberry and dark cherry notes enhance the chocolate [of a Kit Kat bar], and also plays well against the wafers,” Battles says.

Buy it: $40, Social Wines, 52 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-268-2974; 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-225-0040, socialwinesbos.com.

Skittles - Abbia Nova Rosato

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Abbia Nova Rosato
Pair with: Skittles

Ancient Roman viticulture inspires the methods and flavors sought by these Italian growers, who also have olive trees, medicinal herbs, nuts, and a vegetable garden in their mountain enclave in Italy’s Lazio region. This particular rosato—or Italian rosé—is made from “pretty” Cesanese grapes, which brings to the glass “all the red berries, some dried herbs, and wet chalk backbone,” Battles says. “The acid is bright,” she adds, and while it’s “a serious style of rosé, [it’s] totally chuggable as well. It’s super versatile with a range of flavors, such as those in a bag of Skittles.”

Buy it: $26, The Wine Bottega, 341 Hanover St., North End, Boston, 617-227-6607, thewinebottega.com.

Nerds - Bodegas Albamar Albariño

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Bodegas Albamar Albariño
Pair with: Nerds

Xurxo Alba farms and sources grapes from the southwestern coast of Galicia, Spain. The salt air helps produce Albariño grapes, the trademark variety of the region. This single-variety juice made with those orbs is a “bright and zippy white with just the right amount of salinity and citrus to keep things fun and lively against the crunch, tart candies,” Battles says.

Buy it: $26, The Wine Bottega, 341 Hanover St., North End, Boston, 617-227-6607, thewinebottega.com.