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Pairing Delicious Chili with Great Wines


The New Year is here. With it comes the chill of winter and football. NFL playoffs are underway and the college National Championship Game is just days away. One food that is both a warm welcome to the new year and a great football food is chili. Here are some delicious chili recipes paired with wines to keep you warm this January.

As a Texan I know thing or two about chili. Some believe chili was first made in the US by a group of Spanish immigrants in 1731. However, it was not the traditional chili con carne; rather, it was more of a Spanish style stew. The first bowl of traditional chili con carne was made in the San Antonio, Texas! Today, chili is so popular in the US it has its own month. There are many regional and dietary variations of chili but the original remains true: Texas chili does not contain beans! In honor of National Chili Month let’s look at a few delicious chili recipes and pair them with the perfect wines.

Texas-Style Chili

This chili can be made in a variety of ways as long as it does not contain beans. I like the recipe for the array of flavors and spices including a variety of peppers, dark beer, and unsweetened chocolate. Malbec pairs great with this chili due to its deep earthy notes of chocolate, sweet tobacco, black pepper, and a touch of green vegetation. Another good choice is Tempranillo for its tomato and earthy characteristics.

Classic Chili Con Carne

This is another style of Texas chili but instead of a variety of peppers, this recipe is a meat lover’s dream! It contains three different types of meat: beef, venison, and buffalo, along with bacon for good measure. You cannot go wrong with warm climate Syrah/Shiraz. Syrah offers a smokiness along with cured beef that is perfect with a bowl of beef driven chili, and it will blend beautifully with the bacon. For a less obvious choice try Touriga Nacional. This lush wine loves rich fatty foods such as mega beef chili. It also blends well with oregano and coriander.

Vegetarian Chili with Winter Vegetables

I love this recipe because the winter squash, red bell pepper, and carrots add a depth of texture and sweetness uncommon to many chilis. It also contains beans for protein and the traditional ingredients of tomatoes with chili spices. Furthermore, this chili is perfect for a crisp glass of white wine on a cool fall night. Grüner Veltliner is a good pairing because it loves food, can handle the small amount of spice and the sweetness of this chili, and offers balance due to its long acidity. Another choice is Albariño, but make sure your selection has a creamy texture for best results. Bonus choice:Viognier, low acidity and creamy texture aromatic wine that loves sweeter veggies.

Turkey Chili

This chili has a bit more depth than typical turkey chili because it uses both dark and white meat turkey. Otherwise, it is a fairly traditional chili with beans, that can be made quickly for a great weeknight meal. The reduced tannins and high acidity make Cabernet Franc a good choice for turkey chili. Furthermore, Cabernet Franc pairs very well with oregano and cumin as well as tomatoes, red bell peppers, and pinto beans, all components to this chili recipe. Nebbiolo is another option but make sure it is a lighter Nebbiolo, such as those crafted in Langhe.

Lambo Chilli with Tensils

Is it really chili if it is French inspired and contains lamb and lentils instead of beef and beans? You be the judge. However, it is delicious and a crowd pleaser for lamb lovers. It does contain all the traditional chili ingredients and packs a hearty punch. Zinfandel is a great wine to pair with this dish. It is a bold, rich, full-bodied wine that loves lamb, spice, chili seasonings and tomatoes. A winning combination. Sangiovese will work as well. It has higher tannins but also higher acidity and will work well with the earthy notes of this chili along with the lamb and tomatoes.

Cincinnati Chili Con Carne

Did you know Cincinnati has its own chili? It is twist on the classic by incorporating a touch of vinegar and spices of cloves, allspice, and cinnamon, along with unsweetened chocolate. This recipe serves it “five ways” with beans, grated cheddar, diced onions all on a bed of spaghetti. This lighter chili will pair well with Beaujolais, a light red wine with soft red fruit notes and a round earthiness to blend with the spice notes and chocolate in this dish, without over-powering it. Another option is Pinot Noir. An equally light wine that has great structure and pairs well with cloves and allspice.


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