Sweet Wines for an Adult Halloween

by Jeff Harding
October 2011

It’s that time of year again: Halloween means a jack o’ lantern and pot of candy at the maitre d’ desk, and maybe some ghosts and cobwebs hung for décor. But for the inventive sommelier there’s a way to share some sweet treats with diners on All Hallow’s Eve. The kids can have their Tootsie Rolls and mini-Milky Way bars, but treat your guests to sips of caramel, toffee, or luxurious jammy fruits, and they certainly won’t feel left out. Costume is optional.

Pedro Ximénez, Alvear Solera 1927, Spain, N.V.
A Solera is a system of making sherry consists of blending wine from each vintage, and naming the solera of the first year it’s used, in this case 1927. So imagine Spanish ghosts wafting out of the bottle, brandishing roasted nuts, figs, caramel, toffee, and sweet plum preserves. Don’t be afraid—they’re willing to share.

Pairings: Heath Bar, Tootsie Roll
Costume: Spanish Pirate

Tokaji, Royal Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, Hungary, N.V.
France’s King Louis XIV received this wine as a gift from the Prince of Transylvania and pronounced it the “Wine of Kings, King of Wines.” Bram Stoker was also a big fan. One taste and you will understand why.  It is absurdly rich and complex, with notes of baked apples and pears, earthy tones of leather and bright copper acidity.  Tokaji is made from grapes infected with noble rot, (what better description for a classy vampire like Dracula?) and the name, Aszu, literally means “desiccated” in Hungarian but commonly refers to the sweet style of the wine. Sweetness is measured in Puttonyos, which is the word for the baskets used to gather the over-ripe grapes, and has come to mean how much sweet Aszu paste is added to the cask(et).
Pairing: Chocolate-covered orange peels
Costume: France’s Louis XIV

Sauternes, Chateau Rieussec, France, 1983
Redolent of dried apricots, honey, and white-flowered fruit blossoms, this is one of the leading sweet wines from Sauternes. Acquired by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in 1984, this dessert wine is certainly worthy of royalty. You might think that only zombies would drink a wine made from fungus-infested grapes, but Sauternes are regularly the most sought after wines in the world. Its uniquely dry finish makes it very food friendly, but it also pairs with cheese or stands alone as a voluptuous dessert.
Pairing: Bit-O-Honey, Payday candy bar
Costume: One of Alexander Dumas’ Three Musketeers

St. John Commandaria
A Commandaria refers to a medieval military headquarters in Cyprus, controlled by the Templar Knights during the Crusades (imagine that cemetery: knights, monks, and pilgrims from the Middle Ages). This is the oldest named wine still in production, with origins in ancient Greece and was given to European royalty and pilgrims in medieval times. A rummy powerhouse of caramelized oak, this fortified wine tastes of raisins and toasted nuts, with whispers of coffee cake spices.
Pairing: Lindt Swiss Classic Milk Raisin Hazelnut
Costume: Templar Knight of the Crusades