What is a Halloween wine? Scary wine? Spooky wine? Haunted wine? Blood wine? Wine incarnadine? Pairing wine with cheap, big-bagged candies is not an easy task: Riesling with your candied corn? Moscato with your circus peanuts? I do love Zinfandel with chocolate, even Snickers and Reese’s cups, but what do we really want out of a Halloween wine? We’re not giving the wine bottles to Trick or Treaters, right? The bottles are for the adults handing out the candy to pair with whatever’s for dinner on the 31st. Perhaps Halloween wine is just for our Halloween-themed adult (as in above the legal drinking age) parties that seem to get bigger and badder every year. Now we have some interesting options for Halloween wines; wines that look the part but also bring great taste to the party.
Vampire Winery has made their name being that producer. Vampire wines have been helped a great deal by our recent cultural obsession with youthful vampires, as well as Goth subculture, but this winery really took off when they started producing their wines in California, rather than Transylvania. I remember when Vampire wine was only Pinot Noir and Cabernet and was only available around Halloween. It was sourced from Eastern Europe, which gave the wine a strong mineral acidity, tasting rather sanguine (think of Hungary’s Bull’s Blood wine or Egri Bikaver, which can also be a Halloween wine choice since it’s got “blood” in the name). Though Transylvania gave the wine a real connection to the Dracula myth, by geography and by taste, it limited its potential popularity as a wine for U.S. wine lovers. Therefore it made good business sense to have a better quality of wine available all year long. In California, the Vampire Vineyards expanded their line beyond incarnadine to include whites and blush wines and added some flagship wines like the Dracula Paso Robles Zinfandel and the Trueblood Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir (talk about cross-marketing).
Now the Vampire wines are more akin to their California cousins and follow typical varietal characteristics in a New World style. The regular Vampire Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are available locally, and all year long, from most ABC Fine Wines and Spirits for about $10 per bottle. Of the prestige line only the Dracula Zin is generally available at ABC for $16 per bottle, while the rest can be special-ordered if necessary. You can check out the winery’s website to see all of the offerings available.
Some other Halloween-looking wines are the Spanish Garnacha de Fuego ($8 per bottle) and the California Bramblewood Zin ($12 per bottle), which are both black and orange and spooky. The Garnacha’s label has fire licking up the side of the bottle on a black background, while the Bramblewood looks like a scene out of any Halloween cartoon (Great Pumpkin time?) with thorny black brambles on an orange background. Both of these wines have great flavors to go along with their seasonal attire. The Gnarly Head wines have a similar orange and black color-theme, as does Bogle Old Vine Zin, and these wines are usually right around $10 per bottle and are consistently good. As a color alternative, the Apothic Red (about $9 per bottle) has a more classically Goth appearance, with a scarlet letter “A” surrounded by red filigree and scrollwork on a black background. The Undone wines (both Pinot Noir and Riesling, at $10 and $11 respectively) have a particular costume look (think corsets, slightly undone) that can work for some holiday events, though the Pinot Noir’s black label fits our current visual theme a little better.
There are many October-oriented beers, so I’ll leave that to one of our beer bloggers, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a perfect Halloween addition to any home bar décor, the Crystal Head vodka. Yes the bottle is one of those crystal heads out of the last Indiana Jones movie, but full of triple filtered premium vodka. And this month you get a free crystal head shot glass for every 750ml or larger size bottle you purchase. We sell skulls from 50ml for $10, to 750’s for $50 and 1.75s for $100. All of them look deliciously ghoulish when underlit at the front of your haunted bar. Enjoy your spooky drinks responsibly, which is why wine is such a great alternative, or addition, to your typical Halloween party bar.
Halloween is just a week away, so get your Samhain supplies now (or have us order in more quantity for your party) before the spooky rush creates a blood bath. Have a spooktacular holiday and be safe!
Daniel Eddy, Fine Wine Consultant for ABC in Gainesville, Florida
Dan’s also the Wine Pairing Examiner for Examiner.com; you can read more of his suggestions at http://www.examiner.com/wine-pairing-in-gainesville/daniel-eddy