You see them in every store's Halloween food section going by names like "Tricky Red" or "Treat Bag Chardonnay" or "Zombie Blood."
What's a good buy?
What's swill in a bottle?
And how do I make the wine I like taste better?
These questions and more answered...
Look, we've known each other for a while.
Can I be blunt?
Ok, here goes... Most of the wines that are $6 - $9 per bottle, with a fancy Halloween-themed label that you never see anywhere else except around Halloween time--- are not very good.
Let me say this: I'm not a wine snob. But I DO know just enough about wine to be dangerous.
You don't have to spend $60 and up on a bottle of wine to have it be "good." In fact most of the wines I'm going to recommend below run between the $12 - $23 per bottle price point.
They may not all have super-decorative scary labels, but I think you'll find them to be a good bang for your buck and tie-in to the Halloween season enough to be fun.
I've had this wine and it's a delicious deep purple ink color so it looks great in the glass and smells "jammy"... which I can only describe in simple terms as "fruity-grapey."
As you can see... no fancy label.
BUT... the word "Bogle" in Scottish means "Phantom." (I double checked the Merriam-Webster and it says that it's derived from Britain and means "Goblin or Specter.")
Regardless, it's a scary word.
And if you drop this little trivia nugget of info to your partygoers as you fill their glasses with it you'll look like you know what you're talking about. And after reading this... you DO know what you're talking about.
BOGLE: PHANTOM - $17
For something a little spookier from the same winemaker, try the Bogle: Phantom.
It's a blend (meaning it's made from a bunch of different kinds of grapes).
The label is scarier (check out the silhouetted branches against a very autumn copper/rust background) and features the definition of "Bogle" (a phantom) printed on the cork.
I've had this too and though it wasn't as good as their Petit Syrah, it's still an enjoyable wine.
This is a regular purchase for me. It's easy to find and it's a solid Pinot Noir. You cannot go wrong with this wine.
Again: super boring label.
BUT, any Stephen King fan worth his/her weight in horror knowledge can tell you that Castle Rock is the fictional New England town where King has set many a story including such gems as Cujo, The Dead Zone and Needful Things.
So there's a few to choose from and they're usually available year-round so you don't have to stock up on "Pumpkin Smile Red" every October.
Moving on, I'm going to recommend next some off-the-beaten path wines that are still spooky, priced a little higher, and might be harder to find... but they all have some certain style to them and are worth searching out.
That's another fun thing about wines--- they're like films.
Some are mass-marketed, big-budgeted behemoths that appeal to a wide swath of people. Not a lot of character development, maybe the plot doesn't make total sense, but --hey-- we're here for wine--ER, a movie.
Some are smaller, independent films that have really complex storylines and nuanced performances but won't appeal to everyone.
And then there are the obscure underground films that are hard to find, but if you get a hold of one and share it with friends, you'll have a good time. I think that's the next batch. Half the fun will be in hunting them down. I haven't tried any of these, but I look forward to swapping stories with you if you find them before I do.
OLD GHOST: ZINFANDEL - $37
Here's one that I, personally, haven't tried but fellow Halloween blogger FrogOnThePumpkin mentioned it and I'll take her recommendation.
According to the Klinker Brick Winery website, this is priced at $37 per bottle but don't believe the winemakers' websites. I would guess you'd find it in stores for between $20 and $28.
The label features a white tree done in a muted raised print and it's called "Old Ghost."
LUGOSI WINES: MALBEC '07 - $50
Lugosi? Didn't he play for the Knicks?
No this is actually BELA LUGOSI.
Yes, the man who played Dracula has his own wine.
From the looks of the website HERE it doesn't look like there is too much going on at LugosiWines.com. (Heck, the last tweet was 18 months ago).
BUT, there was at least one 1200 bottle batch of 2007 Malbec made. And according to the site they refer you to to buy the wine, it needs "... at least 3 years in the cellar before bringing it into the light." See what they did there? Yep. Dracula dude.
Anyway, the wine should be ready for drinkin'... if you can find it.
Take a wooden stake with you when you look. 'Can't be too careful.
Located in the Paso Robles wine region of the California coast, Graveyard Vineyards gets its name due the the vineyard's proximity to an old cemetery (it's even in the painting on the label).
Don't let the pretty colors of the painting fool you, these guys have a dark sense of humor to go with their wines.
With wines like "Tombstone Red," "Dark Phantom" and "Mortal Zin," these guys know how to name a wine. And their several silver medals demonstrate that they know how to MAKE a wine too.
Be sure to check out their "Graveyard Goods and Gadgets" part of the site where you can buy black skull and tombstone wine stoppers, and a "Drink in Peace" coffin gift box. Coffins? Coffins are cool.
Here's a New Zealand wine I've been after since I saw it on LovelyPackage.com HERE detailing the packaging for the bottle complete with vintage Gray's Anatomy pics and a red wax melted cork.
By one or two websites, it looks like it'll go for around $60 per bottle.
It's my Holy Grail. My Lost Ark (it is NOT my Crystal Skull).
Someday I will find it, buy it, ship it and drink it.
That day is not today.
Now after all those recommendations, what if you can't find those in your local stores?
Or you're working with a limited budget?
Or you actually like the seasonal wine offerings with the funky Halloween labels?
That's totally ok.
Here's what I'm going to do for you: I'm going to show you how to make that inexpensive bottle taste the best it possibly can.
You're going to need to buy a couple things, but they're not that expensive, they'll last as long as you don't break them and it'll make your whole wine drinking experience more fun.
As cool as it looks to drink wine out of a plastic skull mug or just a Solo cup, it's not doing anything for the flavor of your wine.
I'm not saying you need to buy expensive fine crystal, but you do need to have wine glasses.
Because wine glasses are shaped, specifically, to help bring out the flavor of the wine they are designed for.
A red wine glass tends to have a big bowl base to it to allow more air to get to the wine (if you've ever heard someone talk about letting the wine "breathe" it just means getting more air into it). The more air that gets to the wine, the better it tastes. I'm oversimplifying, but hey it's a Halloween website.
If you've ever gone wine tasting, chances are you may have received the glass to keep (usually with the name of the winery on the side) after the tasting. These are great to use for parties because a) it's a good conversation starter to talk about the wineries you've been to and b) if they're accidentally broken by guests, they weren't that expensive to begin with.
THIS one from SuvinoWinery.com called "Eat Drink and Be Scary."
Target had a set of four with just a plain etched skull and crossbones. Cost Plus World Market and Z Gallerie usually put out similar sets with their Halloween wares.
THESE black bat covered ones from HERE.
like this Soiree one for only $20). Try and get one that's glass instead of plastic.
It's just a little thing that either attaches to the wine bottle, or sits on top of the wine glass and let's you pour the wine through it.
Remember earlier when I mentioned the wine "breathing"?
An aerator just accelerates that.
I used to think it was a snake-oil product until I did the Pepsi challenge with an aerator.
Two identical bottles of wine. Both opened at the same time. One poured directly into a glass, the other poured through an aerator into a glass. I sipped both.
And if you don't believe me, get yourself an aerator (like this Sharper Image one) and two bottles and take the Pepsi challenge yourself.
So there you go. I've given you some wines to drink... some wines to quest for... some glasses to buy... and some aerators to, uh---aerate.
And to answer the question I know that is on all of your minds:
"What wine goes with candy corn?"
I have no idea. But it'll be fun to figure out.