Pairing Off: Candy Corn

Categories: Pairing Off
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Patrick Michels
"God, I hate Candy Corn."

Those were the first words from Timothy Mercer, wine buyer at Cork in Uptown, after I asked about this week's pairing. And, as it turns out, I hate the stuff as well. In fact, I can think of very few people who really like Candy Corn.

Few treats, however, have lasted as long as these artificially colored wedges of corn syrup, sugar and honey. Since first created in the 1880s Candy Corn has become an institution, with Americans snapping up bags by the tens of millions each year...although most of that ends up in landfills, feeding a breed of super rats.

Come Sunday, most of us will have some leftover Candy Corn around the house. Might as well open a bottle of wine to go along with them--but which one?

The natural flavor combination is simple: sugar with a slight tint of honey. "Instead of trying to fight it, I'd run with the sweetness," Mercer said after getting over his initial disgust. "I'd pick a dessert wine."

Todd Lincicome, wine director at Al Biernat's, came to the same conclusion. All that sugar would completely parch a dry wine, he warned. But ice wines would enhance the candy's basic taste while adding a little sophistication. He also recommended a Hungarian Tokaj for its butterscotch notes.

Since both experts pointed in the same direction, I picked up a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine, 2007--one of the less expensive Canadian brands. I also picked up a stern warning from the guy at Goody Goody, where I bought the wine: "Take plenty of insulin tablets," he said.

The wine is rich on the nose, releasing aromas of pear syrup, mango, dried apricot and perhaps some white pepper--though that could have been the mango talking. The taste is of candied peel and caramel wrapped in a cashmere blanket.

In other words, the texture is soft and silken.

I had dreaded the pairing, but the two--natural ice wine and artifical sweet corn--work together beautifully. The wine picks up on the sugar and honey flavor and carries it along, adding depth and interest. A burnished, bittersweet notes creeps in, making it seem as if whichever company made the Candy Corn used good local honey. The nasty corn syrup taste retreats for a while, slipping back across your palate after the flow of wine dissipates.

Well, no pairing is absolutely perfect. But this is about as close as we've come.

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