Halloween wine night: Pairing scary good wine with classic horror films

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Oh, fall, you’re here. The air is crisp, and leaves are slowly fading from their summer glory, palates are craving rustic and cozy wines, and of course, there’s Halloween. The 31st day of October and the days leading up bring cheer and fear, candy, costumes, and movies about men in white masks who stalk babysitters are celebrated. Any movie fright night is a bloody good time with the right wine.

Early horror films like Frankenstein (1931) Nosferatu (1922) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1908) started the successful formula for audiences and studios took notes. Horror films provide an alternative reality on screen while telling cautionary tales that can relate to audiences. Thematic elements usually touch on desire, greed, purity, psychological, and social struggles. The list can go on, but this isn’t a dissertation on film theory – it’s about finding an immaculate wine with razor-sharp acidity to wrestle with Freddy Kreuger’s right hand. Yet, these films aren’t just any gore-laden cheap thrill kind of horror films (you know the ones) but range from classics to modern classics that inspire thought much like wines do. And we love sequels and remakes, but there’s still nothing like the original. Not to fear, there are still jumps, scares, and unexpected jolts around the corner – and perhaps a few spoilers. Just don’t forget to return your video tapes.

Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976) with Gál Tibor “Bull’s Blood” (Eger, Hungary 2019 – $20)

Carrie with Gál Tibor “Bull’s Blood” Eger

“Hell is a teenage girl” – Jennifer’s Body (Diablo Cody, 2009). It certainly can be and the theme is explored throughout decades of horror films. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel, the film follows a high schooler named Carrie (played by Sissy Spacek) a social outcast coming into womanhood, who is taunted by classmates and shamed by her overly religious mother. We discover Carrie has the special gift of telekinesis which comes to a boiling point at the prom when her classmates jokingly vote her prom queen only to then douse her in pig’s blood. Big mistake, guys. There’s a little bit of Carrie in the legend of Hungary’s Bull’s Blood, where Hungarians fought to the death to protect themselves from invading Turks during the Siege of Eger in the fall of 1552. Legend has it that the army fortified themselves with wine mixed in bull’s blood and successfully won. Gál Tibor’s version (sans blood, obvi) keeps the legend alive with its iron-like minerality and soft pillow-like red and blue fruit.

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) with Merriam Vineyards Chardonnay 2022 (Sonoma Coast, California – $30)

Russian River Valley Winery of the Year, New York International Wine Competition 2022

The Birds with Merriam Vineyards Chardonnay

“Birds are not aggressive creatures, Miss. They bring beauty to the world.” That may be true, Mrs. Bundy, a character from the film, but not in the world of Alfred Hitchcock, the master of horror during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the film, thousands of ferocious fowl descend on the quiet, very real, seaside town of Bodega Bay located in Sonoma County, California. The winged aggressors attack school children, the elderly, and definitely seem to have it out for the film’s main characters, lovebirds Melanie and Mitch. We never really know why the birds attack. Hitchcock leaves it up to the audience’s interpretation, which made the film a success upon release and for decades after. The brilliance of this film can only be matched with a wine from the region itself. Merriam Vineyards, about 40 minutes from Bodega Bay, offers a birdseye view of delicious Sonoma Coast chardonnay with soaring acidity, wet rock minerality, and a touch of tropical fruit.

Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982) with Camins 2 Dreams Grüner Veltliner 2021 (Sta. Rita Hills, California – $48)

Poltergeist with Camins 2 Dreams Grüner Veltliner

This is not just a Halloween classic but a blockbuster from Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 1974) and Steven Spielberg (“Jaws” 1975) telling the story of the All-American Freeling family and their young daughter Carol Anne, who gets sucked into the TV by strange voices. Throughout the film, a thin veil of white noise separates the world of the living from the dead. Many dreamy sequences ensue that terrorize the family, including a vicious clown and one very hungry tree. Towards the end, we discover that the family’s house was built on top of a cemetery, which didn’t sit well with its original residents. A dreamy and compelling film deserves a wine in the same realm. Camins 2 Dreams Grüner Veltliner is a pure expression of the Austrian grape right from the heart of Sta. Rita Hills. Stone fruits, white pepper, key lime, and bright acid are sure to bring you to life.

The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996) with Maison Arretxea Rouge 2020 (Irouléguy, France – $35)

The Craft with Maison Arretxea Rouge

Wine rituals can often be tied to the earth, the moon, magic, witchcraft, cults, while also being associated with Christianity. So how about a movie centering around four teenage witches in a Catholic school from the teen-centric movie craze of the 1990s? Spells, hormones, lust, black magic, and good ol’ fashioned revenge comprise the cinematic potion. As social outcasts these young women form a bond to brave the hellish halls of high school, even going as far as drinking each others’ blood mixed with wine during a coven-bonding ceremony. Some of the first known witches in Europe lived in the Pyrenees Mountains as social pariahs. They were natural herbalists, astronomers, and made wine. In Irouléguy, near The Pyrenees, we find Maison Arretxea’s organic and biodynamic vineyards on lands that were once cultivated by monks in the Middle Ages, which happens to be on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine to Saint James. This Tannat-dominate rouge has an immaculate spice character and spellbinding tannic structure. Blessed be.

“The Strangers” (Bryan Bertino, 2008) with Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé 2020 (Côte de Provence, France – $31)

The Strangers with Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé

Somewhat of a modern classic, this film depicts random acts of violence on a single set with very few actors. A seemingly happy couple stays the night at a family home in rural anywhere America while being stalked and eventually murdered by three masked killers. Carefully crafted angles curate a sense of realism and relatability, we know these people, we know this house. We don’t know why the three killers chose this couple, other than they were simply home. Sometimes we expect certain outcomes, yet, the unexpected can be oh-so-thrilling and thought- provoking. Clos Cibonne Rosé is not your typical Provence rosé and can be a year-round favorite, not just when it’s cool to drink pink. The illustrious onion skin color and body are a product of peculiar (in these parts, anyway) sous-voile barrel aging that gives the wine a sea-salt, nutty freshness followed by white cranberry and cherry fruit.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) with Longhorn Cellars “Medium Rare” Red Wine 2020 (Texas Hill Country, Texas – $65)

Texas Hill Country Winery of the Year, New York International Wine Competition 2022

Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Longhorn Cellars Medium Rare

There’s something about Texas. Wide swaths of hot, dry, never-ending highways inter-spliced with abandoned farmhouses – or are they? This early 1970s, independent, rustic, and gritty first-of-its-kind cannibal tale is one for the history books. Five friends are thrown into a pile of madness in rural Texas after stumbling upon a rundown house in hopes of finding gas. They will soon meet the family of cannibals who reside there, including Leatherface and his sidekick, a rusty Poulan 306a chainsaw. The visceral 83-minute bloodbath culminates with a dinner party you’d hope never to be invited to. That being said, there are somewhat more traditional treats coming from the Lone Star State, including this Mourvedre blend, with its dusty tannins, blackberry notes, and dare we say, a hint of leather.

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) with Brovia Nebbiolo 2016 (Barolo, Italy – $65)

Halloween with Brovia Nebbiolo

What’s a horror movie list without this spine-tingler chased by the ultimate fall wine? The ultimate slasher film of all slasher films spawned many remakes, sequels, and wannabes. However, nothing ever lives up to that trademark Jamie Lee Curtis scream, the deep breathing POV of Mr. Myers, or that on-the-edge-of-your-seat closet scene. The same can be said of Barolo, the King of Italian wines. The Brovia family crafts some of the finest nebbiolo from the best sites of the region that highlight the grape’s age-ability and opulence. The beautiful crimson color is wrapped up in aromas of crushed leaves, licorice, and dried rose petals with acid as firm as Michael Myers’ grip. Some things never go out of style.

This article originally appeared on AlcoholProfessor and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.