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Sugar Rush Anyone? 

A pumpkin head, a jug of wine, and Mounds

It's that time of year when the orange Halloween tchatkes come out of the woodwork, and costumed kids beg for candy at your door. Just for fun this year, plop down on a lawn chair with your plastic pumpkin filled with various candy, grab a glass of wine and harangue the SpongeBob and the Monsters Inc. characters passing in the street.But what to drink with Halloween candy? I can't say this was an easy question to answer, but it was a queasy one. Mixing various candies together with several types of wine in one stomach proved not a job for the diabetic or the weak at heart, but a necessary one to warn readers of the do's and don'ts.

Since there are no traditional guidelines when pairing candy with wine, we started with nothing but ideas and opinions. I didn't think any white wine would complement our selection of candy since white wines have too much acidity to match well with sweeter items. Sauvignon Blanc proved too acidic, but a slightly sweeter, less acidic Chenin Blanc surprised us by matching perfectly with cherry and watermelon Jolly Rancher chews.

You might ask what "matching perfectly" means. When wine and food complement each other, it's like a great couple. No flavor characteristic gets overshadowed by either party, and imperfections are balanced out by each other. For instance, drinking a bold, tannic Cabernet with a salt-seasoned steak creates a wonderful flavor combo, since the salt suppresses the bitterness in wine, allowing the fruit to show through.

The fruit in the Chardonnay, traditionally a difficult wine to match with food, shimmied up affectionately to traditional Halloween candy corn. The softness of the oaky, buttery California Chardonnay didn't overpower the sugary candy corns.

When we delved into the red wines, that's when the fun began. A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, with its chocolate and peanut butter coupling, proved the most difficult candy to mate, but the Oregon Pinot Noir came close, as well as the Argentinean Malbec. Mounds, the coconut item for the tasting, loved everything in the lighter red category. The fruity, Californian Merlot and the French Beaujolais tasted really spectacular with the dark chocolate coating and soft, sweet coconut. Cabernet Sauvignon also liked the dark chocolate of the Mounds.

Snickers was tough, because of the funky peanut addition. Salty peanuts are really best with beer, but add chocolate and "nougat" (whatever the hell that is), and you've got an alcoholic beverage dilemma. The best pairing, which still kinda sucked, was the California Cabernet. Even though the salt in the peanuts helped tame the tannins, the chocolate threw it off. If your candy of choice is Snickers, stick with sparkling wine.

Yes, if you want to be super-sophisticated in front of the little costumed tots, drink a sparkling wine or Champagne with any candy. The tart sweetness will balance out pretty much any candy -- or any dish for that matter -- making friends with all parties. The other adults will be wildly jealous as you savor every bite of your caramel-filled Milky Way.Recommended Wines:2001 Callaway Chenin Blanc

Great value in a slightly sweeter, pineapple-aroma wine. Chenin Blanc is a relatively unknown grape rising in popularity because it complements Asian and Indian foods so well. And it's great with Jolly Ranchers. Can't beat the price. $8 ***

2000 Barnwood Cabernet Sauvignon

The only way to describe this beautifully luscious wine is sexy. Big cherry flavor with a few tannins to bite back. It loves dark chocolate. Amazing value at $18. corkscrew@creativeloafing.com or snail mail to Corkscrew, 1310 E. Ninth Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605.

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