Friday, 25 October 2013

Smells like Halloween spirit

My inner grumpy old woman would like to deplore the unstoppable tsunami of trick or treating that has journeyed across the Atlantic from the US to engulf this country in the last ten years.  When I were a lass, Hallowe’en (yeah, we even had an old-fashioned apostrophe in it to show how uncool it was) was the most underwhelming event of the year.

Having watched how it should be done on a classic Charlie Brown cartoon episode – Charlie and friends dress up, go trick or treating and score massive bags of sweets – my sister and I would try and dress up spookily, which involved draping ourselves in as many scarves as we could lay our hands on, there being no such thing as actual Halloween costumes available to buy.  I remember us bursting into the living room one Halloween, looking like bag ladies and trying out our best witchy noises, yet struggling to get our parents to drag their attention away from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.  If we were lucky there might be apple bobbing – a couple of apples in a washing-up bowl of water – unless there weren’t any apples, in which case our Halloween fun was limited to watching the telly in our spooky rags.  Wooh hooh!  Crazy days.

Now my children expect a pumpkin to carve, proper dressing up and a host of willing victims of trick or treating as a minimum, as if it’s always been that way.  How little they know.

So what do I do on Halloween now?  Sit in front of the telly ignoring any unexpected knocks at the door of course.  Oh not really, I’m not that bitter.  I lay in some funsize Mars bars and sit in front of the telly. 

Some people, I understand, even go so far as to have Halloween parties nowadays.  If you are hosting, or just attending one, it might be fun to have a bottle of wine that gives a subtle nod to the spooky season.  Here, for what they’re worth, are my thoughts.

Jackson Estate Grey Ghost Sauvignon Blanc 2010/11 - £17.23 from, £18 from Ocado, £93 for a case of six from Tesco Wine by the case
Red wine more easily chimes with ideas of blood and vampires, but white wine drinkers can join in too with this very classy glass from New Zealand.  “It’s Marlborough Sauvignon, Jim, but not as we know it.” as James T Kirk might have said if he tasted it.  Wild yeast fermentation (less fun than it sounds) in French oak barrels and seven months of lees stirring have resulted in a multi-layered, textured wine that is big on gunflint and even gunpowder aromas, followed by intense passionfruit and starfruit flavours on the palate.

The Grey Ghost in question is the gum tree which has long grown near the family house on Jackson Estate, whose loose strips of bark make spooky noises when the wind blows, leading impressionable children to believe it was home to a ghost.

If you are a real Sauvignon Blanc aficionado (or just a complete show off) then you will want to have a taste of Didier Dagueneau’s Pouilly Fumé “Pur Sang” (pure blood), which will set you back something over £60 a bottle from Hedonism wines and other high end wine suppliers.  Despite bearing his name, Didier Dagueneau himself died five years ago in a microlight flying accident.  He was a one-man revolution, choosing to make Sauvignon Blanc wines in a unique style, unconcerned for the good opinion of others and apparently certain of the rightness of his cause – and the of the high price of his wines.  If you have the cash to splash then you can judge for yourself.   

Domaine du Cros “Lo Sang del Pais” Marcillac 2012 - £7.95 from The Wine Society, £11.49 from Les Caves de Pyrène
“Lo Sang del Pais” means the blood of the country in the local Occitan dialect.  Marcillac is a small, generally unheard of region in Southwest France, not far from Cahors.  The grape here is little known outside the southwest and its low profile is not helped by being known by a variety of pseudonyms even within it – in Marcillac they call it Mansois, in nearby Gaillac it is Braucol, elsewhere it is known as Fer Servadou (or just Fer) or sometimes Pinenc.  Whatever the name, this grape makes lightish bodied, forest fruity wines with a hint of pencil lead to them.  I think of them as great wine bar wines which offer great refreshment, so just the thing for savoury nibbles.

In the same, ahem, vein, you could look out for Gemtree Vineyards “Bloodstone” Shiraz, McLaren Vale - £11 from Hailsham Cellars or £13.50 from  Or Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Cuvée Fleureto 2010 - £19.95 from Berry Bros & Rudd.

Waitrose Romanian Pinot Noir 2012 - £6.99
If you are on the prowl for a Halloween-tinged party bottle, then look no further than this Pinot Noir, from the land of Count Dracula himself.  Pinot purists might baulk at the suggestion of off-dryness and soft, ripe fruit – but those who have more important things to worry about will happily glug this all night.

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