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Sommelier Roundtable: Your Favorite Wine-and-Candy Pairing

With Halloween just around the corner, we asked 10 wine and food pros to scare up some guilty-pleasure pairings
Photo by: iStockPhoto
For candy, sommeliers reach for everything from California Pinot to Greek Vin Santo.

Posted: October 20, 2017

Why should kids have all the fun on Halloween? This year, we polled 10 sommeliers and other tastemakers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning eateries for ideas on pairing what's in your goodie bag with adult treats in your glass. Get the pros' answers to what you should pair with chocolate—and Twizzlers, Fun Dip, Skittles, gummy bears and more!


Wine Spectator: What's your favorite wine and candy pairing?


Swati Bose, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Flight in Washington, D.C.: One of my favorite chocolate pairings is a dark chocolate with an Aglianico from Campania. For example, the Mastro Aglianico from Mastroberardino that we pour by the glass at Flight. We used to do a dark chocolate with a hint of chile at the restaurant, and it paired fantastically with this wine. The hint of smoke in the wine (from the volcanic soils) is highlighted, and the spice in the chocolate stands out.


Marc Forgione, owner and chef at Best of Award of Excellence winner Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York: I'm not a candy guy.
Beverage director Matthew Conway: I'm not a candy guy either, but I will say … The Haribo gummy bears, which we—
MF: They all eat candy every single pre-shift.
MC: That's not true. It's actually very minimal, but there was a point in time where there were at least three or five bags—there was a point in time when I reached out to Haribo to see if we could do a deal together, because we ate that much Haribo. We always switch it up, but the gummy bears are random flavors, and we always like it because the green ones—nobody knows this, but when a new staff member shows up, like a new server, we always give them the green one and say: "What flavor is it?" And we make them say it in front of everybody, because people always say lime or melon, because it's green. But it's strawberry. And once you know that the green Haribo is strawberry, they taste exactly like strawberry, so it tests your mind. And there have only been two people in the history of time that have been like, "Strawberry."

We were doing a Tissot tasting with the magnums of Patchwork, and it's a very mineral-driven Chardonnay, but it has weight to it as well, and for whatever reason everybody was like, "Wow, these go really well with these gummy bears, with all the different flavors." It has enough weight and minerality to like, wash the sugar away, and it actually was a great pairing. And that was random, because it was just the staff, and usually we were like, "All right, cut the candy out, we're about to do the real food tasting." And for whatever reason, the food was gone, and the gummy bears were still there, and so was the wine, so we were having fun. I'm not sure Stéphane [Tissot] would appreciate me saying that his wine...
MF: It's not his fault it tastes good with Haribo!


Courtney Olson, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Coi in San Francisco: Fun Dip and Bugey Cerdon sparkling rosé! (Renardat-Fache is my favorite.) Tangy, juicy and lightly sweet; guaranteed fun time with an overabundance of effervescence.


Jon McDaniel, wine director of Gage Hospitality Group in Chicago, including Best of Award of Excellence winner Acanto and Award of Excellence winners Beacon Tavern, Coda di Volpe and the Gage: My favorite fat-kid treat as a kid was always taking Red Vines on Halloween night and using the vine as a straw for a Cherry Coke the size of my head. That pairing always stuck with me, as that cherry flavor from the Red Vine straw slurping up that cola was a highlight of my childhood. As an adult in a city where wine is sometimes cheaper than a Cherry Coke (thanks, beverage tax!), Red Vines and Russian River Pinot Noir will be my jam this year—that bright acidity, fire-truck-red cherry blasting out of the glass and a touch of a freshly cracked can of Coke all swirling around is the perfect pairing for those artificial red No. 3 licorice whips. If you are feeling saucy on this Halloween night, pick up a bottle of Kistler or Kosta Browne's Russian River label and drink it straight from the bottle for the most baller pairing of all time!


Alexis Blondel, head sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Benoit in New York: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Lieb Cellars Reserve Sparkling Rosé. Let’s do something unusual! What about pairing Lieb Cellars Reserve Sparkling Rosé, a local wine from Long Island, with [one of] the most popular candies in the U.S.? The dryness and refreshing touch of this sparkling wine counterbalances the richness of the peanut butter. The spicy red berry notes of the wine matching the peanut butter will remind you of the "legendary" flavor profile of peanut butter and jelly.


Barbara Werley, wine director at Grand Award winner Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas: One of my pairings would be Heath bars with a Bual Madeira. The toffee and the flavors of the Madeira have similarities. But the acidity of Madeira also works with the richness of the candy. And it tastes really good!

Also, Brachetto d'Acqui with chocolate. I have even used Hershey's Kisses as examples when tasting. The wine is low-alcohol, fizzy and bright fresh red fruits on its own, but tasting it after eating chocolate, the wine becomes like dried red fruits. It's awesome.


Ford Fry, chef and owner of Award of Excellence winners No. 246, Marcel, St. Cecilia and King + Duke in Atlanta, and State of Grace in Houston: Bone-dry Riesling and Skittles, and if you want a safer combination, you can always go with a California Zinfandel and chocolate candy bar.


Erin Scala, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Fleurie in Charlottesville, Va.: I love Greek Vin Santo with almost any dessert. And if you want a particular brand, it's the Gavalas Vin Santo, and I have been working recently with the 2009. And I love pairing this with caramel apples or caramels. Or a roasted apple dessert or apple tarte Tatin.

This wine is made with dried grapes. And there's a lot of mixed grapes in the vineyards, but primarily, people put on the labels that it's Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidini. One grape is aromatic, one is really dry and one is full-bodied. All white grapes.


Brahm Callahan, corporate beverage director of Boston-area Himmel Hospitality Group that includes Grand Award winner Grill 23 & Bar and Best of Award of Excellence winners Harvest and Post 390: I love dessert-level Riesling (BA, TBA, or ice wine) with Butterfingers. It is a dirty little secret but it’s pretty amazing.

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