Scaring up some Halloween wines

Witchy brews from Bull's Blood to Vampire Merlot

For my last Halloween party, I made the ghoulish mistake of serving a "witches' brew" punch instead of wine. Sure, it looked cool in the plastic cauldron with the dry ice and all, but this unholy concoction of Jagermeister, sloe gin and lime Kool-Aid gave us all hellish headaches before we could finish one glass.

Luckily for this year's guests, I've since discovered plenty of tasty wines that fit the Halloween theme. How's about a little Vampire Wine with that stake?

For a Halloween bash that's all treats and no tricks, uncork some of these spooky sippers (with suggested Halloween candy pairings):

Vampire Merlot 2000 ($7.99) 1/2 for the wine; for the label: Straight from the fang-tastic vineyards of Transylvania (aka Romania) this wine's rich, blood-like color promises a succulent sipping experience. It starts out with a peppery bang, but loses some of its gusto after the initial bite. Slightly tannic, with a hint of freshly dug grave. Tasty with mini Snickers bars. (Not available in Georgia).

Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vines 2000 ($20) : The label on this Bonny Doon Vineyard Zinfandel features a sinister-looking cardinal (the religious kind, not the bird), decked out in devilish red, who seems to be spurting blood in all directions. The Ohio Division of Liquor Control deemed the image so distastefully disturbing that Cardinal Zin was banned in the Buckeye State. Too bad for Ohioans, cuz this wine is zin-fully good. Amazing raspberry aromas with balanced, fruity flavors to match. Intense and delicious. Not bad with Milky Way bars.

Egri Bikaver 1998 Bull's Blood of Eger ($5.99). : This famous Hungarian wine is a bloody good value. Nice garnet color and fruity aromas. Pleasant raspberry flavors, with a slightly metallic finish. Not what I'd call intense, but a nice wine all the same. Pair with Swedish Fish (the red ones) or Red Vines licorice twists.

Toad Hollow 2000 Eye of the Toad Dry Pinot Noir Rose ($9.99) 1/2: The label of this dry, pink wine sports a wine-swilling toad with a glowing pink eye. Happily, the wine smells like strawberries, rather than toads, and it tastes of berries and watermelon. Dry, fruity and refreshing. Just add wing of bat and tail of salamander for a potent Halloween potion. Perfect with watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

Rotari Arte Italiana Brut NV ($9.99) : Here's a bubbly to give Veuve Cliquot, with its orange label and annual Halloween bash, some holiday competition. The Rotari bottle features a bright, pumpkinesque label that's sure to stand out in the darkest graveyard. With a slightly yeasty aroma, the wine inside the bottle is refreshingly dry with tasty green apple flavors. At only 10 bucks a bottle, you'll get lots more bubble than toil and trouble. Try it with popcorn balls (check for razor blades first!) or caramel apples.

Editor's Note: These wines will more than likely be found at wine shops and liquor stores, rather than grocery stores. If they are not on the shelves, most wine merchants are happy to place a special order.

Tina Caputo is a San Francisco-based wino who supports her nasty habit by writing for several wine publications. Comments? Questions? Great wine experience to share? Talk to us! We'll feature your comments in our Mailbag. E-mail [email protected], mail to Corkscrew, 1310 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 or call 1-800-341-LOAF.

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