The last of the evening’s ghosts, goblins, and costumed Elsas have retired to their beds, exhausted from trick-or-treating. Your child’s bounty sits on the kitchen table, a plastic pumpkin bursting with fruity candies, tart chewy taffies and chocolate treats that tempt you to sneak just a taste. Surely, the kids won’t miss a few pieces, you rationalize.
Hey, we’re not judging you for having a sweet fang — at least not tonight. But what should you drink with your stolen sweets? Well, you’re in luck: There are plenty of local wines that delightfully pair with candy, just as long as you follow a few basic guidelines that will keep your midnight munchies from becoming a Frankensnack.
- Flavor Factors
Like food, wine gets its mojo from a specific combination of a few factors: sugar, acid, fruit, tannin, and alcohol (plus fat, bitterness, and umami, in the case of food). The most successful wine and food pairings feature factors that complement each other, as well as the richness and texture of the food. Before you pop a single cork, decide the most important factors in the sweet treat, and let that be your guide. Do you want to focus on the citrus flavor of Lemonheads or the berry flavors in Swedish fish? Gobbling a handful of Goobers? Choose a wine that complements citrus, red berries, chocolate or peanuts.
As flavor factors go, sweetness is by far one of the trickiest because it’s not so simple. For starters, all candy isn’t the same kind of sweet. Sweet foods can highlight the sweetness in a wine, but only if both have the same degree of sweetness. If you’re going to match a sweet food to a wine, choose a wine that is sweeter than the food. The wine will cause the food to taste less sweet, leaving behind a greater impression of fruit. If the food is sweeter than the wine, the combination works in reverse – any perception of sweetness will be muffled by the food, leaving the wine to taste tart, sour, and thin.
- Texture (aka, ‘Mouthfeel’)
Texture may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about candy — or wine, for that matter —but texture, or mouthfeel, is as much a part of the overall experience as flavor. Just think about your favorite candy. Is it Twix? Sour Patch anything? Hershey’s Kisses? Candy corn? Now, consider why it’s your favorite. Chances are, the texture of the candy is an important factor. When it comes to pairings, choose a wine that has a texture that complements that of the candy. If the textures are too different, the pairing will clash like Freddy and Jason.
Now that you’ve gotten a crash course in wine-and-food pairings, it’s time for the fun part: drinking wine and eating candy! Here are our recommendations:
Wicked from Sharrott Winery
This “deliciously sinful” ruby port-style dessert wine from Sharrott Winery is made from chambourcin grapes in Hammonton and features red roses, dark red fruit, dates, and figs on the nose. On the palate, Wicked offers mouth-watering sweetness with hints of cocoa.
Ideal pairings: Mounds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Way, Milky Way Midnight, Hershey’s Special Dark Miniatures, Goobers
5.8 Earthquake from Plagido’s Winery
Shaken from the vines, this award-winning red dessert wine from Plagido’s Winery opens with deep aromas of red and blackberries and finishes as smooth as silk on the palate.
Ideal pairings: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, M&M Peanut, Goobers
Amwell Ridge 2013 Viognier from Unionville Vineyards
This dry, but thoroughly rich white wine features notes of lemon meringue, tart apples, and even kiwi. This offering from Unionville Vineyards is complex and round on the palate, making it ideal for big, fruit-forward candies.
Ideal pairings: Starburst, Skittles, or NJ’s classic Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy, candy corn
Dealer’s Choice from Plagido’s Winery
Made from the Marquis grape, Plagido’s Winery’s full-bodied white dessert wine is a little different. Pear, white flowers, and pineapple lead the experience, and then surprises with hints of caramel and smooth roundness on the palate. Serve chilled.
Ideal pairings: Starburst, Skittles, Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Roll-Ups, Junior Mints
NV Red Raspberry Wine from Alba Vineyard
Produced entirely from locally grown whole red raspberries, this award-winning sweet wine is full of fruit and finishes slightly tart, providing a rich berry experience without a syrupy finish. Chocolate is a great companion for this wine!
Ideal pairings: Milky Way, Milky Way Midnight, Mounds, Hershey’s Miniatures, Hershey’s Kisses, M&Ms, Take 5
2012 Semi-Sweet Riesling from Old York Cellars
Riesling is often called the king of all grapes, and award-winning winemaker Scott Gares of Old York does it justice in this award-winning release. White flowers, citrus blossom, peach and ginger lead the nose, and deliver on the palate with roundness and zippy acidity that carries forward to the next sip, or bite.
Ideal pairing: Jelly beans, candy corn, Skittles, Starburst, Sour Patch Kids
NV Blueberry from Plagido’s Winery
This blueberry dessert wine is about as local as it gets. It’s made exclusively from select blueberries harvested in Hammonton — where Plagido’s Winery is located — which just happens to be the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” It’s full of fruit and lush, with hints of baking spices on the nose. It goes great with almonds and peanuts, and presents a nice contrast with coconut.
Ideal pairing: Almond Joy, Mounds, Snickers, Hershey’s with Almond, Butterfinger
NV Cuvée Blanc 4th edition from Heritage Vineyards
This unoaked, sparkling wine blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, albariño, chenin blanc and pinot gris opens with aromas of stone fruits, such as nectarine and peach, and yellow pear. The pear note carries through on the palate, along with hints of pineapple, creamy lemon curd and light spice. The bubbles give this Heritage Vineyards wine a textural heft that helps it stand up to more challenging candies.
Ideal pairing: Nerds, Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, Nestle Crunch, M&Ms, Butterfinger
About the author: Michele Thomas is a professionally curious; she likes to learn stuff. A certified sommelier with 15 years of experience writing about food, wine, education, and the arts, she chronicles her wine escapades as the Bed–Stuy Sommelier (@BedStuySomm) on Instagram and Twitter.
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