Wine and the Trouble with Halloween

Everyone knows that wine consumption is at least in part occasion-driven. Although some of my friends insist that they don’t really need a reason to pop a cork, for many consumers the act of drinking is closely tied to occasions of one sort or another.

Thus, for example, wine sales here in the US typically peak during November and December when a series of holiday occasions roll by starting with Thanksgiving and ending around New Year. Wine sales and festive occasions are a perfect pairing.

The Trouble with Halloween? 

But what about Halloween? The spooky holiday that we celebrate on October 31 is a favorite festive occasion for lots of people who decorate, dress-up, and generally go a bit wild. Over on the food side of the aisle, Halloween is really embraced with lots of special products and offerings. Take a look at the listings for the Food Network this week and you will see many variations on the Halloween theme.

It would be great if wine could jump on the Halloween bandwagon somehow. It has been done, of course. I vaguely remember Dracula-themed Romanian wines showing up on some grocery shelves this time of the year, but not a lot more. And then there is Hallowine, a spiced sweet apple wine from Wisconsin that I found on the internet. That’s the spirit! But you have to admit that Halloween is for the most part a missed opportunity for wine.

The trouble with Halloween is what to drink with it — and what sort of hook would draw consumers into enjoying wine as part of this unique occasion? I really haven’t thought of this before now and I admit that my first thought was Aperol Spritz. The color is seasonally festive and a bit of bitterness is very nice. Yes, I think an Aperol Spritz would work for adult Trick or Treat.

Halloween Haunts the Beer Aisle

I may not be giving the potential Halloween market much thought, but it is clear that some others are thinking hard about it. We recently received samples of two fruit-flavored Hefeweizen beers from German producer Schõfferhofer, for example (a Passion Fruit version is also available). The Pomegranate beer is blood red and the Grapefruit beer — a 50-50 blend of fruit juice and hefeweizen — is pumpkin orange — or at least that’s how I would describe them at Halloween. The sweet/tart fruity flavors are strong and I admit reminded me a bit of the puckery trick or treat candies (think Starburst or Twizzlers) that we also received.

A beer to sip while you munch through the inevitable surplus of trick-or-treat candy left-over after the kids have gone home? Interesting idea — and good response to an under-served occasion. I wonder what would happen if you mixed the two beers together in a sort of witches brew? I’ll bet the color would be great — a little like an Aperol Spritz!

So how was the beer? Well, it certainly delivered on the sweet/tart promise. I liked the Grapefruit better than the Pomegranate. Sue wasn’t keen on either one — not really a fruit drink and not really beer, she said. Kinda a Franken-brew, I guess. But fun for Halloween and food for thought when it comes to addressing this under-served occasion.

The Devil Made Me Do It

Concha y Toro, the important Chilean wine producer, has also taken aim at the Halloween market this year with promotions for its popular Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.  Google translates Casillero del Diablo as “Devil’s Locker,” but I prefer Devil’s Den because it has a nice haunted house feeling to it.

The wines are good and, at about $12 per bottle, have a price point that drives a stake through the heart of the market (I’m trying to get into the Halloween spirit here). The popular Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal stars in a commercial you might have seen for the wines that features a suitably devilish twist. I admit that I don’t really understand the video, but it is hard not to like the wines and to enjoy their warmth during the Halloween season.

But What Really Scares Me …

I appreciate the creative leveraging of the Devil’s Den theme, but I think Concha y Toro can tell an even scarier story for Halloween. Ghosts and goblins are frightening, for sure, but do you know what scares me even more? Climate change!  And that’s where CyT is a sort of wine industry ghost-buster.

Concha y Toro recently became the wine world’s largest Certified B Corp, an indication of its commitment to a set of values and practices that embraces the environmental cause. Each of CyT’s operations in Chile, Argentina, and the U.S. is now a Certified B Corp. Outstanding.

Fetzer Vineyards, the California producer that is an important part of the CyT family, was recently re-certified with an even higher score, making it one of the highest-rated Certified B Corps of its size. A very high score for environmental efforts is noteworthy.

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So can we make Halloween into a wine occasion on the scale of Thanksgiving and New Year? Maybe not, but I think there is a creative challenge here to find ways to bring wine more directly into the spooky picture. Trick or treat?

3 responses

  1. In recent years, our group of friends in San Luis Obispo, many of whom are in the wine industry, gather on Halloween and have a wine and candy pairing party. It’s difficult to pair dry wines with dessert, but we have fun with it. Sweet/sticky wines always wine, but sometimes a big, unctuous Syrah finds a soulmate in a KitKat bar. Maybe we as an industry need to align with Nestle and Hershey for a marketing push to adults next Halloween!

  2. Hi Mike,

    You’ve brought up environmental issues again.

    You have a significant platform in my industry. You’ve discussed the glass reduction by several companies. They could go much further here.

    I’m advocating a complete overhaul of the glass wine bottle. For our slow wine approach, aluminum and plastic are non starters.

    We need to standardize bottles to allow reuse and reengineer them to get rid of long necks, punts, and heavy weight. Why not 300 gram, 750 ml. bottle?

    Can we get Costco and Walmart to prohibit bottles that weigh more than 0.5 gr./ml.?

    I’ve been pursuing these issues since 1988. I’d like to get a few of the big outfits on board. It’s the approach that worked in ‘92 with plastic stoppers.

    Paul Vandenberg
    Paradisos del Sol Winery and Organic Vineyard

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