If you’re planning a spooky soirée or simply looking to get in the Halloween spirit, now’s the time to put some “boo” in your booze. A quick scan of the aisles of your local liquor store should turn up a fair number of ghosts, skeletons, devils, witches and other fantastically ghoulish apparitions lurking on labels that are year-round selections.
Concha y Toro’s popular Casillero del Diablo (The Devil’s Locker) label is a great example. The story goes that in an effort to stop workers from drinking wines from his cellar, winery owner Don Melchor de Concha y Toro spread the rumour that the devil lived there. The affordable premium brand has expanded to include almost every grape grown in Chile, including malbec and syrah as well as the usual suspects cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. It’s long been a go-to for wine lovers across Canada.
For that reason, I’d pass on any specialty Halloween items available as limited releases. Bacardi Superior Halloween or Cuvée Mythique Halloween Edition red blend from the South of France might actually be bloody good, but those companies already make other products that don’t need a gimmick to garner a sale. Why not check those out instead?
It seems to reason the beverages you serve and enjoy on Halloween should be pleasurable any other night as well. That’s the gist for this week’s recommendations. They sport labels that fit in with Halloween’s spooky vibe, but the frights stop there. There’s nothing to fear about the aromas and flavours of these beverages. They’re crowd-pleasing party wines with a sinister aura about them.
Amsterdam Brewing Co. Boneshaker Unfiltered India Pale Ale (Canada)
Score: 88 Price: $3.45/473 millilitre can
One of Amsterdam’s most popular selections, Boneshaker makes as much of an impression with its label, which includes a skeleton riding a bike, as its bold, hoppy flavours. True to type, this North American-style IPA boasts lots of piney and citrus aromas and flavours. Available in Ontario at Beer Store and LCBO outlets at the above price, various prices in Alberta, and Manitoba for $3.99/473 mL can.
Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Chile)
Score: 88 Price: $18.95
The Privada Cabernet was designed to be a step up from the traditional Casillero del Diablo portfolio, which features one of Canada’s bestselling cabernets. This is a rich and robust cabernet, with ripe red fruit, sweet oak notes and a supple texture. Available in Ontario.
Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (Chile)
Score: 86 Price: $13
Simple and refreshing, this offers a mix of citrus and herbal flavours but lacks the brightness of more refreshing Chilean sauvignon blancs. Available in Ontario at the above price, British Columbia and Manitoba for $13.99, and various prices in Alberta.
Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Franciacorta (Italy)
Score: 91 Price: $44.95
Not spooky or frightening in the least, but a stylish drink to serve at any occasion. Franciacorta is made in the traditional method, with secondary fermentation taking place in bottle. The result is a wondrously crispy, refreshing sparkling wine with richness and complexity from toasty and spicy notes. Available in Ontario.
Cederberg Private Cellar Ghost Corner Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (South Africa)
Score: 92 Price: $29.95
This limited-edition sauvignon blanc from Elim near Cape Agulhas shows impressive fragrance, concentration and character. The mix of vanilla and spice from the oak adds complexity to the bright citrus and tropical fruit flavours. This is a distinctive and enjoyable white that’s worth the splurge. Available in Ontario.
Charles Smith Wines The Velvet Devil 2017 (United States)
Score: 88 Price: $16.95
Merlot continues to be a strong suit for Washington state. This nicely balanced, crowd-pleasing red wine shows impressively smooth texture, with a pleasing mix of fruit, spice and oaky notes. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.40 in Quebec.
Château Lamartine Prestige du Malbec 2015 (France)
Score: 90 Price: $17.95
Part of the LCBO Vintages Oct. 26 release, this attractive red wine from Cahors is rich and ripe. It’s built for the cellar, with firm structure, youthful tannins and a core of ripe fruit that should see this value-priced wine drink nicely over the next six to 10 years. Available in Ontario.
Crystal Head Vodka
Score: 88 Price: $59.95
Made with Newfoundland water and Canadian wheat and corn, Crystal Head is a pure spirit with citrus, black pepper and vanilla notes. A limited-edition bone-coloured bottle is on the shelves in select stores. Available in Ontario at the above price, $50.99 in Manitoba, and various prices in Alberta.
Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Merlot 2016 (United States)
Score: 90 Price: $21.95
By blending grapes from across different regions in California, this ripe and enjoyable merlot offers consistently enjoyable flavours year after year. It’s a dry red with nice concentration, balancing acidity and the smooth texture that’s a defining, but often lacking, trait of wines made with merlot. Available in Ontario at the above price, $20.99 in Manitoba, various prices in Alberta and $19.75 in Quebec.
Moon Curser Dead of Night 2017 (Canada)
Score: 91 Price: $39.99
A distinctive blend of syrah and tannat grown in the southern Okanagan, this full-bodied and flavourful red is Moon Curser’s flagship label. It boasts terrific concentration and complexity, which makes for a cellar-worthy red should you be so inclined. Drink now to 2026. Available direct through mooncurser.com.
The Hatch Screaming Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (Canada)
Score: 88 Price: $18.99
The wine making team sought out a cooler spot in the Okanagan to produce this vibrant and mouth-watering expression of sauvignon blanc. The mix of green melon, herbal and stony mineral notes add instant appeal to this well-made white. Drink now. Available direct through thehatchwines.com.
The Hatch Screaming Frenzy Shiraz 2016 (Canada)
Score: 90 Price: $29.99
The Hatch has quickly made itself one of the Okanagan’s top producers, with a range of clever labels and equally stylish wines. This big and bold shiraz is a case in point, with bold American oak influenced spice notes overtop a core a sweet dark fruit. Available direct through thehatchwines.com.
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