With a 1st Grader in the house, plans for Halloween begin at least a month out, so forgive me for jumping the gun a bit. I should quantify that with ‘serious’ plans, since costume planning goes on year ‘round. As for myself, I give only a passing thought to dress-up and direct my attention to food preparation.We get a big crowd over for dinner so I look for something simple to make that can be self-served. Last year I made pulled pork sandwiches that went over famously. I may have to duplicate the menu. What I look forward to most is the end of the evening, when I finally get to relax and sort through the candy my daughter has strewn across the living room. After popping one in, I begin to think about sweet wine. Andwhat better to serve with that mini chocolate bar than the 2007 Maury from Mas Lavail. A Vin Doux Naturel made from 100% Grenache Noir, Maury is one of the few wines, or actually, the only wine in my opinion, that pairs well with chocolate. Though fortified like Port, Maury appears lighter, livelier and more berry-licious. The 2007 Maury from Mas Lavail is deep purple, almost magenta in color and reminiscent of boysenberry and ollalieberry combining both red and black berry flavors. It is neither unctuous nor cloying. Venturing away from chocolate and desserts, Maury is an excellent apertif (just chill it a bit and serve in a dainty stem), marvelous paired with assertive blue cheeses and can even be served with the main course with, say, something like Muscovy Duck in a cherry sauce. Mmmmmmmm.



Maury is an appellation within the larger Languedoc-Roussillon region, which historically has been dominated by co-ops with few independent producers. This is changing. Nicolas Batlle along with his cousin, Lionel Lavail, started Mas Lavail bringing back to life very old vines that average 80+ years of age and lie on black schist soil. The winery is located between the Pyrenees and Corbieres, near the town called Maury, not too far, really, from Spain. After fermentation and fortification, the wine spends 12 months in oak. Since I detect no oak flavors, I assume the aging is done in neutral barrel. Nicolas and Lionel take an active role in the vineyards with leaf-pulling and hand-picking in order to optimize the fruit concentration.



Getting back to food pairing, let me repeat that I find chocolate nearly impossible to pair with wine.Port overwhelms, Sauternes gets overpowered, Beaume de Venise is too light. Maury provides the right amount of fruit, weight and sweetness level necessary to marry well with chocolate. Last night I had a glass of the 2007 Maury and after enjoying a few sips on its own, I nibbled a few chocolatey Cats Cookies from TJ’s that I sometimes smuggle into my daughter’s lunchbox. Nothing out of place. All was harmonious. I felt the chocolate flavors were enhanced by the Maury. I plan to keep a bottle on hand to finish off the Halloween booty.So last week it was big bottles, this week it’s little bottles. Good things happen in all sizes!Anya Balistreri