It's Not Too Late for Wine and Candy Pairings


Happy Halloween, wine lover! This hallowed holiday isn't just for kids. Adults can and should enjoy their favorite Halloween candies with a little bit of wine. Wine and Halloween candy pairings may be contrived, but that doesn't make them any less fun. In fact, these pairings are quite complex. They are a fine and delicate art not suited to the feint of heart. One wrong move, and you could have a bunch of 98% cacao bars in a puddle of Zweigelt on your floor. (You never really know how people are going to react to a terrible pairing.) Seriously, candy pairings are tough. Candy is a multifaceted treat, with layers of flavors that can range from salty to sweet. This combination, and others like it create wine pairing paradoxes. For example: pairing sweet snacks can increase the perception of bitterness in a wine, but salty ones can decrease that very same perception. What will happen when the twain meets in a single candy? Furthermore, some champion paireres believe that sugary comestibles must be paired with sweet wines. It's a pity that most American wine drinkers don't drink a lot of the stuff. Suffice it to say, pairing wine with Halloween candy requires careful and incisive pairing skills. Snooth's crackerjack cadre of wine writers are pairing pros. They are here with a selection of Halloween candy and wine pairings which are sure to wow all of the (of-age) trick-or-treaters on your block.
Reese's and Malvasia

There's only one candy brand I want to see on Halloween: Reeses. Those classic cups, Reese's Pieces, Fast Break bars, etc. —  if there's chocolate and peanut butter in there, that's what I want. I don't usually drink wine when eating candy, but I would opt for Madeira. Made in a range of styles, Bual and Malvasia (or Malmsey) would work best. These are the richest, sweetest types, but they frequently show vibrant acidity (helping to tame that sweetness), and feature flavors like candied fruits, dried nuts and honey. I like my peanut butter cups right out of the freezer and my Madeira slightly chilled. Add in some classic horror films, and you've got yourself one hell of a Happy Halloween. Cheers!

Isaac James Baker
Reading, Writing & Wine

PAYDAY and Cabernet Sauvignon

Candy and wine — ugh! If this is your reaction, I can sympathize, but stick with me as I make the case for a pairing that might just surprise you — and in a good way. I started by thinking about the qualities in a wine that might pair best with candy: a red wine with ample fruit flavors, smooth tannins just a hint of perceived sweetness. And, no need to spend a lot of money on the wine. Next I moved on to the candy. After tasting a few candy pairings I discovered the key to pairing candy with red wine is for the candy to contain something other than just sugar and fruit flavors. Chocolate is a good start and nuts are an even better addition. Something chewy is a plus. My favorite: PAYDAY and Cabernet Sauvignon. The key to this pairing is the generous amount of peanuts in the candy bar and the salty contrast to the chewy caramel center. Nuts, like red wine, contain tannins which to my taste is a large part of the reason this pairing works. There you have it, a candy and wine pairing to enjoy for Halloween. I hope you don't find the pairing too scary. Happy Halloween!

Nancy Brazil
Pull that Cork

Raisinets and Tawny Port

The Wine Harlots Halloween ritual is booze, candy and a movie. (Which is our basic move every day of the year, too. Boring? No! Call us consistent.) Since the main caveat on dessert pairings is that the wine needs to be at least a sweet as the food, so with candy, this eliminates most table wines from consideration. What really seems to pair well across the board with candy? Tawny. Whether you pick a Tawny port, or a fortified wine from around the world, Tawny rules. It paired really well with a Snickers bar, but ultimately, we chose a classic movie pairing. Tawny and Raisinets is what we’ll be enjoying with our double feature of girl-power Hocus Pocus and the always unsettling Halloween.

Nannette Eaton
Wine Harlots

PEEPS and Gewurtztraminer

We all love PEEPS. Besides Halloween, the sugary marshmallow PEEPS seem to make appearances for al of the major Holidays. At our house, we have a Traditional, PEEP Party. We pair Gewurtztraminer with the PEEP'S and all feel like we are in Heaven. It's worth a try...

Philip Kampe

Heath and Sauternes

Heath bars may well be Halloween’s unsung chocolate heroes. Everyone seems to enjoy them but nobody actually seeks out these sweet treats unless they’re already in an assortment with their more popular candy cousins. So, my choice for Halloween wine pairing would be the mighty Heath bar with a slightly aged Sauternes. I think the tertiary dessert wine flavors – like butterscotch, crème brûlée  and even candied fruit – will play nicely with the smooth, toffee, chocolate-y goodness of the Heath bar. Happy Halloween, Booordeaux style.

Marijke van Niekerk

Almond Joy and Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon

Hitting my teens in the 1980s, I will always recognize the advertising jingle, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”  I bet if you were also a child of the 80’s, you easily sang the next verse. Little did I know that I would fast forward 30 years and I’d be pairing that nut less candy bar with an acclaimed 2010 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon. The pairing was a sublime combination. The Joseph Phelps had rich notes of blueberry, plum, nutmeg, vanilla bean, Indian spice, blackberry, cassis and spice. The chocolate and coconut combined with the lush cabernet created a treat that will keep any treat seeker smiling.  

Melanie Ofenloch

Wagner Vineyards Sparkling Riesling and Sour Candies

Sour candies are fun and not cloyingly sweet - why not try a Riesling with them? Better yet, make it a sparkling Riesling. A wine like the Wagner Vineyards Sparkling Riesling from New York's Finger Lakes region is both sweet and tart but not too dry, contrasting and complementing the candies, with a clean finish and bubbles to act as a palate cleanser before the next bite.

Kovas Palubinskas
50 States Of Wine

Almond Joy and Madeira

When I was a child my two favorite candies were Candy Corn, and Sugar Daddies. Reminiscing about those two treats now makes my teeth ache! I can’t believe how sweet I liked my candy (sounds a bit like my wine journey)!  These days, I literally only eat candy once a year, at Halloween. Each year, we buy a bag of candy.  And more than a few Almond Joys never find their way into those requisite cute plastic orange pumpkin pails, pillow cases or paper bags as the case may be. For two reasons, my favorite wine to pair with Almond Joys is Madeira. First and foremost is because Almond Joy has finds its soul mate in Madeira. That’s because Madeira has enough concentrated sweetness to complement the sweet milk chocolate of an Almond Joy, it has a nutty, caramel/toffee character that elevates likewise elevates the taste of an Almond Joy and its crisp acidity prepares your palate for the next bite! The second reason is that Madeira, once opened will stay fresh for many months if stored in a cool, dark place or refrigerator. That’s important to me because I want the bottle to last through the holidays. I also like to pair Madeira with the some of my favorite holiday treats like Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Sweet Potato Pie. A great entry-level Madeira is Blandy’s 10-Year Old Rich Malmsey Madeira.  It was aged for 10 years in seasoned American oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the casks of this wine are gradually transferred from the top floors of the lodge, where it is naturally warmer, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where it is cooler. It has a rich, concentrated, viscous, caramel apple, molasses, dried fig character that is accented by nuanced chocolate, spice and orange peel notes. It has a long finish clean finish thanks to its crisp acidity.

Martin Redmond

Dark Chocolate and Merlot

Whether it’s on Halloween itself or really any time of year my favorite candy is Dark Chocolate with pistachios. Personally, I far prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Furthermore I prefer my dark chocolate to lean towards the bitter side but I also like it to ride the line a bit with hints of sweetness. The intensity of dark chocolate with some bitterness and the crunch and added flavor of the pistachios makes for an interesting and somewhat surprising match for well-structured Merlot.

Duckhorn 2013 Napa Valley Merlot ($54): Duckhorn has a number of Merlot’s in their portfolio; many of them single vineyard offerings. This Napa Valley Cuvee however is their best known and mostly widely available Merlot. The fruit comes from a combination of their estate vineyards and others throughout the valley. Red cherry, leather and bits of toast appear on the nose. The palate is loaded with red fruits, savory herbs and a host of spice notes. Red cherry continues throughout and is of particular note. Black pepper, chicory and hints of bay leaf are evident on the long finish. A dusting of cocoa is present as well and marries nicely with the dark chocolate. The oodles of cherry fruit evident on the Merlot soften the tannins on this beefy Merlot which is just entering its drinking window. While I think that the possibilities for the pairing of dry red wines and chocolate are too often over stated, this particular pairing works remarkably well.

Gabe Sasso
Gabe’s View

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bar and Ghost Winery Malbec

Ever since I moved to Napa, I have had a sweet spot for Flora Springs, especially during the month of October when Halloween is celebrated there like no other winery in the Napa Valley. Every year, the Flora Springs winemaking team releases small-lot, varietal wines just for Halloween to honor its founders, Jerry and Flora Komes, who met long ago at Halloween dance. Each wine also features a specially designed, one-of-a-kind label. This Halloween, Flora Springs crafted three wines: the 2013 Harvest Witch Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 All Hallow's Eve Cabernet Franc, and the 2014 Ghost Winery Malbec. I had the opportunity to stop by and taste all three, to unearth the quintessential Halloween and candy pairing. It was tough work, as you can imagine, but I discovered something I didn't expect. Flora Springs offers in its tasting room Le Belge Chocolatier Premium Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt bars, also made in Napa. I had a genius moment and decided to try one with all three wines. Of course, I tasted and revisited the pairings a few times. All of the wines paired well, but it was my personal favorite, the 2014 Ghost Winery Malbec, that won my heart and my palate yet again. This beautiful wine, whose grapes are sourced from two blocks at the Komes Home Ranch in Rutherford, offers flavors of rich, black cherry and warm mocha that complement the bitter and salty black chocolate, while its Rutherford dust tannins are tamed by the chocolate's creamy cocoa butter. Lucky for us, both the wines and the chocolate bars are available to ship to your door. I promise, this is not a trick, but a treat to be savored this Halloween and beyond.

Elizabeth Smith
Traveling Wine Chick

KitKat Bars and Talbott R & V  Late Harvest Riesling

I love Halloween candy. Nothing made me happier as a child than a pillowcase full of sugary loot. Pairing candy with wine? Not my favorite thing. The first two rules of wine and food pairing will explain why pairing wine with candy is hard. Rule #1 is that food sweetness should be less than or equal to wine. Candy is inherently on the very sweet side of the spectrum. Many less sweet candies have a rampantly acidic character as they are flavored by citric acid. This wreaks havoc with Rule #2: Food acidity should be less than or equal to wine. So where do you start your Monster Mash? Pick a wine with more than moderate sweetness and acidity. I chose Talbott R & V Late Harvest Riesling  from the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County in California. This golden colored wine has aromas of stone fruit, vanilla, white flowers and subtle tropical notes. Flavors of apricots, honey and vanilla nestle in its silky texture. It’s sweet, but enlivened by bright acidity, so doesn’t taste cloying. As luck (and my dentist) would have it, I soon found a tasty match in my candy grab bag. Kit Kat candy bars have a vanilla top note to their chocolate coating as well as a touch of salt, so the candy matches the vanilla and pairs well with the caramel-touched apricot tones of the wine. Additionally, the crispy wafers decreased the sweetness and increased the crunch, which proved an interesting textural note against the unctuous wine. Sadly, the old vine Riesling used to conjure up this delicious elixir have been replanted, so this pair is as ephemeral as childhood itself. But I sipped, crunched, reminisced and dreamed of more Late Harvest Rieslings in my future.  Bring on the Trick or Treaters--just don;t expect me to share my KitKats!

Liza Swift

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Garnacha

One of the fondest memories that I have of Halloween was the year when a neighbor was purportedly out of town. As people do when they are not home, the lights were out in the house, but they left the porch lights on. A scarecrow was placed on a lawn chair in front of their house with a big bowl of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on its lap and a sign that said something to the effect of “Please Only Take One”. Well, being an immature child with an out of control lust for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I immediately tried to beat my friends in a race to get the highly prized “loot”. Somehow, even though I was always the most uncoordinated kid, amazingly, I was ahead of everyone. The hunger for those delicious chocolate covered peanut butter sweets was fueling me. And right before I was about to reach the bowl, the scarecrow jumped up and yelled, and I ended up on the ground laughing. Because of that great memory, I always give out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for Halloween. It was fun to try several wines with them - it is a hard job but I do suffer so for my profession - and the one I liked best was a Garnacha from Spain. The 2014 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha had the right balance of “sweet fruit”, even though it is technically a dry wine, with smooth body and interesting notes of sage and spice that brought my enjoyment of these devilishly tasty treats to the next level, and all for only 10 bucks. So this year, I will not only be giving out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to the kids, but a wine pairing recommendation to their parents.

Cathrine Todd
Dame Wine

Miniature Hershey Bars and Value Bordeaux

My favorite Halloween candy is miniature Hershey Bars. This mix of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Mr. Goodbar, Krackle, and Hershey’s Special Dark in a miniature, bite-sized candy bar can be a fun palate cleanser or after-dinner treat. An ideal wine pairing is an inexpensive Bordeaux red blend. While there are many to choose from in the $8- $15 range, one of my favorites is Chateau Larteau. Deep ruby in color, it features a complex bouquet of eucalyptus, forest floor, and rich black fruit. On the opulent palate, red and black cassis are dominant fruit with notes of mocha, pepper, tar, and gravel. This collection of soft tannins and mature, dark flavors is an excellent complement to miniature Hershey bars, M&M candy, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Sweet and savory flavors from the chocolate are enriched by the dark, powerful notes from the wine and then cleansed swiftly with acidity for a satisfying experience. I purchased a case of this right bank Bordeaux superior 2006 for $13/bottle just a few years ago; it was drinking well at the time, but at ten years of age the wine has hit a beautiful stride. The '06 is still available at a few bucks more per bottle, but the ’09 and ’10 vintages are easy to find for $15 and ideal vintages to enjoy that will remain viable for many more Halloweens to come.

Jim van Bergen
JvB UnCorked

M&Ms & Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port

As Halloween approaches and the super markets pack aisle after aisle of delicious candy my mouth begins to water for my all-time favorite candy treat: M&Ms. Though classic M&Ms are my favorite because I can pour a handful into my mouth, I am also a fan of peanut M&Ms as well as the creamy deliciousness of peanut butter M&Ms! I am not a big candy eater and if it is not chocolate I typically won’t bother. However, throw a few M&M’s my way and my heart sings. On Halloween night the kids don’t have to be the only ones having fun. For a frighteningly fun Halloween pour a glass of Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port and grab a handful of M&M’s. Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port is elegant, striking a delicate balance between notes of a rich nuttiness, honey, and fig and deeper notes of spices with a hint of dark chocolate that develops due to its aging in seasoned oak casks until it reaches the peak of maturity. The flavors are a perfect accompaniment to classic, peanut, and peanut butter M&Ms. Give Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port a slight chill to heighten the sensual pleasure of this decadent wine. A word of caution: Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port paired with M&Ms may be addictive so buy an extra bag of M&Ms for the trick-or-treaters.

Michelle Williams
Rockin Red Blog

Mentioned in this article


  • These actually sound pretty good, haha

    Oct 31, 2016 at 11:36 AM

  • After reading all these recommendations I'm now a believer in Candy and Wine pairings!

    Oct 31, 2016 at 11:56 AM

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