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  • Christina Pickard

Hallowine in America: They do it bigger but do they really do it better?

What do you get when you mix:

–2 Sauvignon Blancs, 2 Rieslings, 2 Zinfandel/Primitvos, 2 Cabernet Sauvignons,

–One ‘wine trivia’ quiz,

–LOTS of fake spider web,

–1 ‘20s flapper, Dick Tracy, 2 Hawaiian tourists, 3 American football players, 2 ‘1960s parents’, 1 hippy, 1 Witch of the East (the one under the house), and a few who forgot to dress up???

Why you get Hallowine of course!

Picture taken and pumpkins carved by Meghan Valovage

It’s true what they say—Americans do it bigger (and al right, occasionally better).  I have lived in the UK for nearly 8 years and the strange thing about living abroad for any length of time is that you gradually find yourself becoming a foreigner in your own country.  One of the most bizarre things I’ve noticed is that America seems to be a land for giants.  I find myself in the house I grew up in staring in amazement at our refrigerator wondering ‘was it always this big?’ (and then realising it has to be to fit the giant gallons of milk and juice inside it).  The same goes for our enormous separate washer and drier, the cars, the supermarkets, the portions of food, and on and on…

So when a visit to my hometown in upstate New York happened to fall on Halloween, I decided the only appropriate way to celebrate the Hallmark holiday was to do it like a true American:  Over the top and tacky!  But of course no Halloween party would be complete without a good round of wine tasting—make that NO party of mine would be complete without wine in general.  So after the rubber snakes and spider webs were hung from every corner of the ceilings, and the ‘pumpkintinis’ were passed around to loosen everyone up, the tasting began.

My square 1960s parents telling their hippy daughter off for having a pumpkintini.

Now most Americans, like most wine-producing nations, drink mainly their own wine.  And why shouldn’t they?  It’s what fills the majority of the shops’ shelves.  So when choosing a blind tasting theme, I opted for an Old World (mainly Europe) vs. New World (mainly everywhere else besides Europe) competition.  Could they guess which was their beloved Fingerlakes, NY Riesling and which was the traditional German?  There was food to match each round.  I also threw in a quiz for good measure which really got their competitive spirit going.  By the time the Sparkling Shiraz was brought out to have with a cherry chocolate cake, I think I’d just about killed everyone’s palates!

All in all I’d like to think the first American Hallowine party went over a trick—or—treat!  (Oh dear…)

Amelia the devil. In America, even the dog goes in fancy dress…

Some highlights of the night:

Dr. Loosen Riesling—a top producer transforming the face of the German wine industry, this off-dry Riesling has tons of fruit aromas and flavours—think apricots and peaches with a mineral finish.  Perfect for a hot summer’s day!


Hermann J Wiemer 2007 Semi-dry Riesling—My favourite winery in NY state, it’s made in the German Rheingau-style, it’s citrusy and floral, soft with just a touch of sweetness.

I matched these splendid Rieslings with Gruyere cheese and apples.  Yum!

Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel—‘America’s grape’, this is a fine example from a top producer.  We’re talking raspberry jam, dark chocolate, and black pepper spiciness with a touch of cloves and tobacco on the finish.


A-Mano Primitvo—Zinfandel may belong to the USA, but it turns out it’s the same variety as Italy’s Primitivo grape.  This example comes from Puglia, the heel of the boot, where Primitivo is best expressed.  It’s soft ripe blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry all around with a hint of toasty oak and soft tannins.  It goes down a little too easily!

I matched these with Pizza Fondue.  The acidity of the tomato sauce and the slightly spicy kick worked perfectly with these medium-bodied fruit driven reds.

Photo taken and pumpkins carved by Meghan Valovage

In conclusion:  I think it’s a shame that Britain doesn’t make the most of holidays, especially the Autumnal ones (let’s admit it, Guy Fawkes night is pretty lame and Thanksgiving doesn’t exist!).  Maybe Americans do play into the hands and wallets of Hallmark a little too much, but I think a holiday like Halloween, which comes when the days are getting shorter and colder, is a good excuse to celebrate.  So next October the 31st, don’t just leave it to the kids.  Do it like the Americans: bigger and (in this case) better.  Get out your fake spider webs and plastic snakes, cut some holes out of your bedsheet, head to your local wine shop, and throw your friends Britain’s first Hallowine party!

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