W hile children seem to get the most out of Halloween, with costumes and sugary treats, there is no reason adults can’t have some fun, too.
With Halloween on a Friday this year, there are sure to be parties celebrating the scary side of this holiday. In that spirit I have put together a list of appropriately-themed wines. If you try these they are sure to put the treat in “trick-or-treat.” But all of these wines will serve you well throughout the holiday season, whether you’re hosting a Christmas party or looking for wine for Thanksgiving dinner.
If you are hosting or attending a Halloween party, wine lovers shouldn’t be intimidated into drinking beer or spirits. After all, red wine is the color of blood, and some wines are named blood. There is Sangria, which is the Spanish word for blood, and the wine from Hungary, Bull’s Blood, or Egri Bikavér.
Think of some fun ways to work wine into your party. Try bobbing for apples in a punchbowl of wine or wine punch. Or play spin the bottle with a wine bottle after the players have drunk the wine.
But if your wine drinking habits have dulled your imagination, don’t worry. Creative winemakers (or marketing departments) have produced dozens of boo-tiful labels to put you in a ghastly, ghostly mood.
Of course, you can always go to your favorite wine shop for help. Most of them will have a special display with Halloween wines. For me Halloween marks the start of the Port season in the South, so I have included three wonderful Ports in my list.
Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port is a perfect wine for holiday sipping, including all the end of year holidays. It is a beautiful yellow-brown color in the glass with complex, nutty aromas. Full, rich fruit flavors lead to a long, pleasant finish. It’s just the thing to sip while you wait for the trick-or-treaters to hit your door. It would be perfect with apple pie or other desserts and strong cheese. It costs about $36.
Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port is another nice Port for the holidays. A deep red color, it has red fruit aromas and rich flavors of black cherry and spice notes. The warm finish is long and full of fruit. The wine is made in the style of Fonseca Vintage Port, which is much more expensive. The Port is ready to drink when it is sold and features a rounder, more approachable style than Vintage Port. It would pair well with chocolate, candy bars, other sweets and nuts. It sells for under $20.
Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny is another great example of the tawny style. Aged for an average of 10 years in wooden casks, the blended wines create a mellow taste of rich fruit with elegant wood notes. Serve it slightly chilled. It would pair well with desserts flavored with almond, berries or chocolate, rich cheeses, or a plate of walnuts. ($27-30)
If you feel like splurging, here are two incredible Ports that would put the maximum treat in the holiday:
Taylor Fladgate 1863 Single Harvest Tawny Port ($3,700). With subtle spicy aromas adjacent to the treacle and molasses, this wine has notes of sawn oak and vanilla that complement the spicy surge of nutmeg, black pepper, and ginger. In time, the sumptuous aged aromas emerge with walnut, marzipan, butterscotch, and mocha followed by rich, figgy plum-pudding notes. This limited edition, 151-year-old porto is best consumed by itself, after a meal, or with nuts.
Taylor Fladgate 1964 Single Harvest Tawny Port ($300). Matured over five decades, this crispy acidic wine displays a fine oak aroma and complex spicy, nutty, cigar box notes alongside the warm harmonious background of butterscotch and molasses. Rich, spicy, black pepper flavors lingers, making it the perfect finish. This rare Single Harvest Tawny Port is best consumed with figs, almonds, pecorino, apple pie, Cornish game hens, pecan pie or even crème brulee.
Casillero del Diablo wines seem like they were made for this holiday, complete with an embossed devil on the bottle. More than 100 years ago, Chilean wine maker Don Melchor stored this wine in a cellar with a sign saying it was the devil’s cellar. That kept his superstitious workers from stealing the wine. They bottle many varietals, but I particularly like their Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Chardonnay. All the varietals sell for about $11-12.
The winery, part of the Concha y Toro group, takes Halloween serious. It owns the trademark on “The Official Wine of Halloween.” The company is running a costume contest on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Fans can win a DSLR camera.
Gnarly Head Authentic Black is part of the winery’s “Gnarl-O-Ween” marketing effort. The wine is marketed as the darker side of their portfolio. It’s a clever promotion, but the best part is what’s inside the bottle.
The wine is a luscious, dark Petite Sirah, bursting with concentrated flavors of blackberry and plum. The aromas are mouth-watering cherry and black licorice. It will pair well with most meat dishes, pizza or hearty chili. This is a limited release wine, so it probably will be gone by the end of the year. About $12.
Mionetto Il Spri!z. For a wine that really looks like Halloween you could try this blend of semi-sparkling wine and aromas and flavors of blood orange. The brilliant pumpkin orange color might make you hesitate, but the flavor is wonderful. You can serve it over ice or heated as a mulled wine as a delicious aperitif. It’s based on the traditional Spritz recipe from northeast Italy’s Veneto region. It tastes like a blood orange with some herbal notes. About $12.
Vampire Vineyards also takes the holiday seriously. They make some good wine, and their website is fun, filled with amusing videos. The wine is bottled under four labels: Vampire Vineyards, Dracula, Trueblood and Chateau du Vampire. One of their slogans is “Sip the blood of the vine.” Their prices range from about $13 to $30.
Poizin ($20), by Armida Winery in Sonoma. It starts with a great label: red skull and crossbones painted on the bottle, with the red looking like it’s dripping blood. The wine also is terrific, a silky Zin blended with some Petite Sirah and Syrah. Some bottles come packed in their own little wooden coffin. The winery calls it, “the wine to die for.”
Heretic Petite Sirah ($40), from Cypher Winery, is a monster of a wine from Paso Robles, full of black cherry, red fruit and thyme. The scary label painted on the bottle looks devilish.
Here’s one true, scary story about wine:
Bull’s Blood wine from Hungary has a great tradition, full of blood and gore. The small town of Eger, Hungary, is known for withstanding a month-long siege by the Turks in 1552.
About 2,000 soldiers defended the town’s 13th-Century castle from 150,000 Turkish troops. The men, led by Captain Istvan Dobo, stopped the Ottomon Empire’s invasion of Western Europe. To fortify themselves during the siege, the citizens of Eger drank red wine from their cellars.
The wine splashed on their beards and spilled on their armor, coloring them blood red. The Turks were unable to understand how they could be stopped, so when they saw the red beards and armor they thought the Hungarians were drinking Bull’s Blood to give themselves strength. Afterwards, the legend spread all over the world, and the region’s wine gained its name.
Author Dennis Sodomka