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Boo-Worthy Wines

Serve Scary Good Wines This Halloween

by Courtney Cochran

In a curious twist of linguistic fate, some decidedly frightening-sounding statements have been lately transformed into vehicles of praise. Mostly refashioned, as far as I can tell, by loquacious members of the surfer/skater culture prevalent in California, the phrases run the gamut of topics and references, but given the time of year I've singled out two that undoubtedly invoke Halloween.

A sampling: .

"These [insert noun in the plural form] are scary good!"
Translation: These [things] are delicious.

"That [insert noun] was wicked bad." Translation: That [thing] was very cool/extremely impressive. (Note: True to the ironic spirit of this group, the use of two negative descriptors - "wicked" and "bad" - in this one makes it all that much more complimentary.

And so, to borrow a page from this verbally adventuresome sub-culture, I'd like to say that the following sweet wines are scary good, and that serving them on Halloween this year would be wicked bad of you.

Vin Santo

From Italy's sunny Tuscany comes this delicious amber-colored sticky that literally means "holy wine." The process used to create it dates to Greek and Roman times, when these savvy forebears discovered that leaving grapes out to dry in the scorching Mediterranean sun produced super-concentrated raisins perfect for sweet winemaking.

Watch for aromas and flavors of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, dried fruits and nuts before Vin Santo's trademark long finish. Pair the unctuous stuff up with coffee- and caramel-flavored sweets like Werther's Original caramel candies, or with chocolate and nut-laced treats such as Snickers bars. Tootsie Pops, with their brown sugar-flavored centers, will also work swimmingly.

Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs)

Leave it to the food-obsessed French to produce the world's best wine for chocolate. Made mostly from Grenache and Muscat grapes grown in the South of France, Vins Doux Naturels are crafted in the same manner as Port (meaning they're fortified by neutral grape brandy) and clock in around 16% alcohol. The best versions hail from the appellations Beaumes-de-Venise, St.-Jean-de-Minervois, Rasteau, and Banyuls, with the latter holding the impressive distinction of being the best of the bunch for chocolate.

VDNs offer up layered aromas and flavors of raisins, coconut, nutmeg, licorice, citrus rind, and almonds. In terms of food pairings, they'll work with just about anything involving chocolate, and their trademark raisin flavors make them a shoe-in for pairing with Raisinettes. Almond and coconut-flavored Almond Joy is another slam-dunk pairing, and licorice-spiked sweets are also good bets.

Ice Wine

Made from frozen grapes, ice wine is produced extensively in Germany and Canada and holds the distinction of being the most versatile dessert wine when it comes to food pairings. For this perk we can thank ice wine's eclectic flavor profile, which includes nuances of tropical, tree and citrus fruits (think banana, pear, and lime, respectively) as well as floral, honey, and baking spice notes.

This Halloween, pair ice wine with hard fruit-flavored candies such as Jolly Ranchers and Life Savers, as well as with sweet and tart treats like SweeTarts and Starbursts. Ice wine's honey nuances will also harmonize beautifully with those found in Bit 'O Honey bars, and if you'll be savoring just one sweet wine with your Halloween treats this year, make it an ice wine, since this versatile sticky has the most flavor flexibility of them all.

Because after all, covering all your bases is wicked impressive.