Happy Hallowine! Whether you’re going trick-or-treating, enjoying some post-Halloween candy discounts, or trying to work your way through a bowl of what didn’t get passed out, we wanted to share some crucial (and life-changing) information with you: Candy pairs beautifully with wine. Now, maybe you think that wine pairing is a fine art only to be mastered by the sommeliers of the world, but you’re wrong! With a few handy guidelines, you too can be a candy and wine pairing master!
To start us off, here’s some basic wine knowledge for you. We’ll be dealing mostly with new world wines today. New world wines are from places where wine-making didn’t originate. Wine-making became popular in these places during times of exploration! Some examples of the “new world” are the Americas, South Africa, and Australia. On the contrary, old world refers to places where wine-making began. Think Italy, France, and Spain.
Our reasoning for choosing to work with new world wines is that they have fairly straightforward laws governing their production and labeling. For example, with new world wines, we call the wine by the grape harvested and fermented: cabernet, pinto grigio, malbec, etc. The old world has laws that are more complex. An example of this is that wines are categorized by the location in which they were produced, not by the varietal of grape fermented in the production process. Why does this matter? A little thing called terroir (tare-wahr). Terroir is all of the elements that effect grape growing conditions, therefore altering the body, flavor, and taste of a wine. Some of these elements are climate, elevation, slope, soil acidity, and microflora. The terroir directly correlates to the quality of the harvest. That’s why, sometimes, a bottle of wine from the same producer may cost different amounts for different years. If the harvest was better in 2013 than 2009, the 2013 bottle will most likely be more expensive! Due to the wines being labeled by territory, many times old world wines are made with a myriad of different grapes. Now, we’re not saying that terroir isn’t important in the new world, it just doesn’t have as much of an impact on the laws that be. So, in order to make this as simple as possible in what may be one of your first voyages into the vast sea of wine knowledge, we’ll work with new world wines!
One last bit of knowledge. There are three key things to consider when tasting a wine: taste, aroma, and body/mouthfeel.
- Taste refers to the the sweetness or acidity of the wine. As you sip, pay attention to where your tongue is triggered first. Is it sweet? Salty? Maybe it’s a little bitter? Or sour? This all refers to the taste of the wine. Taste isn’t to be confused with flavor. Flavor refers to the profiles you pick up on: cherry, chocolate, green apple.
- Aroma is the odor of the wine. Take a deep inhale. Seriously. Get your nose into that glass! Odor is sensed by our limbic system, which also happens to be the part of our brain that deals with emotion and long-term memory. What does the wine trigger for you? Fresh grass? Pine? Campfire?
- Body/mouthfeel refers to the viscosity, tannins, and texture of the wine. Swirl a sip of wine in your mouth. How heavy does it feel? How dry is it? Is it sharp or smooth?
Typically when pairing food with wine, you want to match the body of the wine with the body of the food. For example, a fuller-bodied red, such as cabernet, will pair better with steak and potatoes than a lighter-bodied sweet white wine, such as riesling. For more, we’d suggest checking out Wine Folly! You can order their book, or just browse their site!
Alright folks, dump out your candy bowl, and let’s get pairing.
This Halloween candy is paired best with your trash barrel. Seriously. Throw it away. Okay, now that you’ve eliminated some of your pile, let’s get down to more serious pairs.
Bears, worms, sharks, and more. These sugary, fruity, and chewy morsels are best matched with a lighter wine that’ll keep up with their sweetness! Try a riesling for a fun and fruity combination.
Sour candies have such a bold profile, they need something a little more relaxed to give your taste buds a break. Try something light that finishes crisp like pinot grigio!
Starburst, Skittles, Dum-Dums, and more. Pair your fruity loot with a medium-bodied wine that can withstand a myriad of flavors. Also aim for a wine that has a balanced acidity and finishes smoothly, but dry like sauvignon blanc!
Pair your milk chocolate bars, Rollos, and Butterfingers with a medium white wine that’s smooth and buttery, like chardonnay.
Got a little coconut in the bag? Pair candies like Mounds with a crisp, dry rose!
M&Ms are one of my favorites. Pair these delicious candy-coated chocolate treats with a balanced and crisp red, like pinot noir.
Pair your heavier candies like Reeses and Carmellos with a wine that stands up to it’s bold profile. Choose a full-bodied red, like cabernet, to wash away the peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. I promise it’s SO good.
Last but not least, we all are lucky enough to get one or two Twix in our bag each year. If you’ve got a candy that’s also a cookie, and also has caramel inside, you’re going to need a fuller wine. Pair these types of candies with a heavy-hitter, like malbec, to match the heft of the candy. It’s not too sweet as to distract your palette, but also not too smooth as to let the flavor of the wine go undetected.
In closing, the most important thing to remember is the match the body of your wine with the body of what you’re eating. Lighter flavors pair well with lighter wine, and rich, decadent food deserves a full-bodied wine!
At the end of the day, even if you haven’t mastered pairing, at least you’ve got a few bottles of wine and a big, old bag of candy in front of you…so have fun (and brush your teeth before bed)!