What I’m about to tell you will likely come as a surprise. You should sit down for this:
Candy corn pairs shockingly well with almost every variety of wine.
Yeah, I know. Candy corn tastes like glue and old icing. It’s gross, makes your teeth hurt, and happens to be the worst part of an otherwise perfect holiday. But hear me out—there’s actual science behind this.
My editor assigned me this story after our resident Mom (A.K.A. Nicole from Well Done’s Mom Versus series) proclaimed candy corn an all-around match for whatever wine you have in her latest video.
WATCH: Mom Vs. - Candy and Aldi Wine Pairings
See, the candy corn didn’t pair well with just one bottle. No, it paired well with everything. Red, white, or pink—candy corn worked with all of it.
Even her friend, who hates the tri-colored "treat," conceded that the corn partnered well with just about every wine they tasted.
For reference, here's a handy wine pairing chart they made after tasting:
“It’s super sweet, but it’s also a little bit salty and buttery,” Nicole explained to me later. “It’s like they put salted butter into the candy mixture. The wine kinda cuts some of that.”
I did a little research and was unable find anything to support this exact statement. Nicole is an admitted candy corn-lover (don’t hold that against her, she’s cool), so I assumed her flavor theory was more opinion than fact. There are plenty of wine pairing charts devoted specifically to Halloween candy, sure, but most experts seem to only include candy corn in their lists solely out of obligation. After all, there's not a more iconic Halloween confection.
My editor, who admittedly has much better instincts than I do, encouraged me to continue digging.
As it turns out, the Internet doesn’t know everything and the people I work with are much smarter than I.
I’m going to be very upfront with you: My wine comes from a box and my candy comes from the bottom of my purse. I’m clearly no expert.
So, I turned to people who are.
“Candy corn is essentially a marshmallow (made with corn syrup) and it has buttery vanilla flavoring,” according to Mary-Frances Heck, Senior Food Editor at Food & Wine. “These are flavors found in oak, which is often used in the wine aging process. Now, I’m not sure of the exact flavor compounds used in candy corn, but I do know that oftentimes foods that have certain flavor compounds make a good match for a wine with those same compounds.”
This intriguing tidbit suggests that there might be something to Nicole's theory after all.
Because she’s a genius, Heck directed me to James Briscione for further discussion. Briscione is a two-time winner of Chopped, author, Food Network Star, instructor at a leading culinary school, and all-around flavor expert.
Briscione’s latest revolutionary work, The Flavor Matrix, explores why foods taste good together on a molecular level.
The idea for The Flavor Matrix came from his work with Watson, IBM’s famous supercomputer.
According to Briscione, “[Watson] thought only about combining ingredients based on their inherent flavors, with no notions of which foods conventionally go together.”
So yeah, I hate candy corn. I’m basing this hatred on all my past experiences of eating candy corn and finding it to be disgusting. But am I, a mere mortal, unable to see past my human biases? Could wine actually bring out previously undetectable nuances in this sugary seasonal staple?
“The main flavors, or aromas, of candy corn are butter and vanilla,” Briscione says. “The whole principle of The Flavor Matrix is that when ingredients share similar compounds, they tend to go well together. You’re going to find butter and vanilla in many wines that have seen oak, but particularly white wines.”
It seems that Nicole was onto something with her original idea about complementary flavors.
“Candy corn is so intensely sweet,” Briscione says. “To have something with some crispness and acidity to cut through that sweet, makes it very pleasant.”
There you have it. If Briscione says it, it must be true.
I decided to put the combo to the test after serendipitously finding a fun-size package of candy corn in the depths of my purse last night. I wasn’t kidding, by the way—my bag is something like Mary Poppins' bag, but if Mary Poppins were a hoarder.
Truth be told, Nicole's not wrong. Paired with a $15 box of Shiraz (because class), the most disappointing Halloween treat in the world ain’t half bad! I’m sure it would taste even better consumed with a white wine, like Briscione suggested, but I wasn't about to drop money on more wine just for candy corn. It's candy corn... it's never going to taste that good.
Lessons learned: Don’t let unpleasant past experiences get in the way of future good experiences and, most importantly, wine makes everything better.