We all know Halloween is a big deal, especially for those with small children. However, parents face the same conundrum every year: what to do with all that extra Halloween candy. You don’t want to give it all to your kids (because, health), and you don’t want to eat it all yourself (because, diabetes). So I am proposing a new holiday of sorts.
We will call it the Halloween after-party. Gather your friends, all your extra Halloween candy, and some wine to host a killer pairing party.
The first time I did this pairing was the year we moved back to the States after six years of living overseas. I got a little overambitious buying my candy at Costco. I neglected to remember that I lived in a neighborhood comprised of mostly retirees, who were, surprisingly enough, not trick-or-treating. I had a ton of leftover candy and rather than gaining 100 pounds, I decided to invite some friends over and try pairing the candy with wine.
After that first attempt, I took one for the team, and through much trial and error, I feel I have perfected an easy guide to wine and candy pairing for your gastronomic convenience.
I like to start the night with sparkling wines because I am fancy like that.
Prosecco and Cava are both varietals that give you a lot of bang for your buck. Unlike Champagne, you don’t have to spend a ton to get a great product. These wines are meant to be consumed young, so their price point is a lot more budget friendly. If you like sweeter wines, I recommend a nice Lambrusco. It’s a lighter sparkling red wine served chilled.
Sparkling wines pair well with fruity candy: Skittles, Starburst, or Twizzlers (unless you are a Red Vines person because apparently that’s a thing). Milk chocolate also pairs well with sparkling wines. The mild flavors of both compliment each other.
Next, it is time to move onto white wines.
At first glance, it would seem that these are trickier to pair with candy. However, with a little creativity, you can create some really interesting combinations. Chardonnays (look for those with a buttery finish that are not overly “oaky”) do well with white chocolate, jelly beans, and candy corn.
I know candy corn is a polarizing food. However, I do not care to hear any naysayers.
Candy corn is delicious. It may even be the closest thing to healthy candy (it has corn in the name so it’s practically a vegetable) that exists. Eleven months out of the year I can resist its siren song. Come October, it is on.
The more robust flavored candies (sour and cinnamon) also pair well with white wines. I like to match them with a riesling or gewurztraminer (off dry or sweet). These are lighter, sweeter wines and don’t compete with the flavors of the candy. If you have any leftover fruit candy, pair it now with a citrusy pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
At this point in the night, I highly recommend a palate cleanse. Eat a bunch of cheese, change into your elastic waist pants (if you are a glutton for punishment and haven’t already done this) and get ready for the “granddaddy of them all.”
Red wine and candy are just meant to be together.
There are many red varietals you can sample depending on which candies you choose. Grenache, pinot noir, or any other fruitier reds pair well with candy that has caramel or nuts. Snickers, Almond Joy, KitKat, and Milky Way are all good choices. I also like Valpolicella (or Amarone, its more expensive cousin) with these types of candies. They are made with dried grapes so they have a sweet finish that matches well.
More full-bodied wines like zinfandels or cabernets lend themselves well to richer sweets. I like to pair them with anything that has dark chocolate or peanut butter. “Spicy” wines like a syrah or a malbec also are fun to pair with chocolate. Barbera (such a crowd-pleaser) and merlot, with its low tannins and soft finish, go great with most chocolate candy as well. I like to put them with coated candies such as M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces.
At this point in a real wine tasting, you would be presented with the dessert wines. Now, you could go big and bust out a Port. However, I think you will regret this decision in the morning (because, kids).
Instead, I recommend hitting up that big hunk of cheese again and then brewing a pot of coffee. You need the caffeine to help with digestion. There is a reason the Italians finish their meals with espresso. Now is the time to pat yourself on the back because you have successfully eliminated a lot of excess sugar in your home. Your kids are going to be so healthy!
As a bonus, all that wine you consumed will probably help you come up with a creative story to tell your kids about what happened to their Halloween candy. Cheers!