It's a real shame that more people don't enjoy dessert wine on a regular basis. What's it going to take to get this nation to savor distinct and delicious sweet wines with the regularity that we enjoy, say, a cookie or cake? Here's what I propose: instead of a New Year's dessert wine resolution, how about starting a Halloween Hallowed Honor? Just promise that you will honor the bounty of your candy, regardless of the means of its acquisition, by taking the time to make each piece even more delicious by pairing it with an after-dinner sip.
Which sweet wines work well with Halloween candy? Here are a few easy suggestions for what to drink with the candy you've collected.
When it comes to Halloween candy, Starburst can practically be classified as a fruit. So we paired them up with some lighter-style sweet wines that play well with fruit. All three Starburst flavors I tasted (lemon, orange, and strawberry....yes, I sampled each square individually) matched well with and fizzy, fresh Moscato d'Asti—try the 2012 Vietti Moscato d'Asti if you want to duplicate my taste test. In terms of flavor, the Vietti calls to mind drinking a bowlful of peaches and pears. You just need to imagine such a thing can be done, and then add a flourish of carbonation. If a song celebrating the combination of Moscato d'Asti and Starbust does not become part of our pop culture pantheon by next year, I'll be disappointed.
And lest you think Italy has cornered the market on Starburst-friendly sweet wines (a growing segment, I'm banking on it) you can also try the Bottex Bugey-Cerdon La Cueille from France. It has a pinkish, strawberry-Starburst color and might also be one of the greatest brunch wines in the history of the world. Bugey-Cerdon suggests red berry sweetness yet delivers it without being cloying. And, like Moscato d'Asti, it has refreshing, cleansing bubbles. What makes both these styles of wine work with Starburst is that they offer sweetness with enough tart zestiness on the side to avoid becoming ponderous on the palate.
Perhaps in your mind there there is no Halloween bounty without chocolate, so we'll jump to our wine match for Almond Joy. With almonds, coconut, and chocolate all together in one bite, it's time to tip your hat and glass to the beverage of choice in colonial times: Madeira. There may not have been Almond Joy bars present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but you can use this delicious old drink to toast the sort-of-revolutionary overturning of the Halloween candy bag. With its dark amber color and flavor recalling toffee and toasted nuts, Madeira just looks, feels, and tastes like it was made for this classic candy bar. Try the Blandy's Ten Year Old Malmsey, which helps the trifecta of Almond Joy flavors shine, cozying up to the almonds and staying lively enough not to be kicked to the curb by coconut.
Mellowcreme Pumpkins and Peanuts
If you're like me, you take all your culinary cues from the back of a bag of Brach's Mellowcreme Pumpkins. And maybe you crave something with a savory twist to help finish off that giant bag. Thankfully, the good folks at Brach's suggest enjoying a handful of Mellowcremes or six "mixed with peanuts for a festive sweet and salty snack." OK, I'm game. It's sort of like being presented a cheese plate with toasted nuts and dried fruit as accoutrements. Except replace the fruit with sugary pumpkins in Day-Glo colors. Pour yourself a glass of Port, like the Graham's 20 Years Tawny, and you'll find it's a surprisingly good match with all that salty sweetness, a bit like extra-festive peanut butter and jelly.
Any More Ideas?
I'd certainly like to experiment more with putting together candy and dessert wine. But right now, I need a salad. And a couple hours at the gym. Got more ideas for pairing desserts and drinks? Share 'em in the comments section and I'll gird myself for the next sweet installment.
About the Author: Jameson Fink has been working in the wine industry and blogging about wine since 2004. Saveur Magazine nominated his site, jamesonfink.com, for a 2013 Best Food Blog Award in the Wine/Beer Category. He is a tireless advocate for year-round rosé consumption and enjoys a glass of Champagne alongside a bowl of popcorn.
Wine tasting samples provided for review consideration.