Challenging Wine Pairing: Chili con Carne

By LaGayle ~ December 8th, 2010.

Now that we are into the winter season, what better meal on a cold, rainy or snowy night than chili? Of course, the official name is chili con carne, which comes from the Spanish language and means peppers with meat. Chili is actually just a spicy stew. There are almost as many versions of chili as there are cooks that prepare it. The main ingredients are beef stew meat or ground beef; however, today there is even vegetarian and turkey chili. While meat is the most common main ingredient, the other ingredients usually include onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and tomatoes or tomato sauce. Some people like to add beans; however, I prefer my chili without beans.

Since I’m a Texan, I found the origin of chili to be interesting. Spanish Canary Islanders first invented chili in San Antonio, Texas. And, by the way, chili is the official dish of the state of Texas.

The menu for this month’s challenging wine pairing was very basic. It included the chili, a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados with a cilantro lime dressing, and Fritos corn chips.

Now, what wines to pair with this meal? The fact that wine is probably not what first comes to mind to pair with chili only added interest in doing this pairing. I hope this series proves that wines can be found to pair with just about anything. Once again, I referred to my favorite book, What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, and selected Malbec and Syrah. We enjoyed the 2007 Andrew Will Annie Camarda Syrah and the 2007 Milbrandt Vineyards The Estates Malbec. While both wines were good, all four of us thought that the Syrah paired best with the chili.

We’d love for you to share in the comments what you would have paired with this meal. And, as always, we welcome your suggestions for challenging wine pairings for us to try in the future.

Bon Appétit!

2007 Andrew Will Annie Camarda Syrah (Washington State): Dark, inky purple in color. Very aromatic with ripe, jammy black fruits, oak, earth, and eucalyptus on the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Esquin Wine Merchants (Seattle, Washington), $22.99; Available elsewhere, $23

2007 Milbrandt Vineyards The Estates Malbec (Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, dark purplish red. Nose is a bit tight at first then coffee, licorice, and waxy aromas come through and lead to flavors of black plum and olive. Medium-bodied and smooth with soft tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $17.99; Available elsewhere, $20

Filed under: American Wine, Challenging Wine Pairing, Food & Wine, Malbec, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Rick | December 8th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    great article. I grew up with bean-free chili, too–reminds me of my dad’s cooking.

    I’m a big fan of Korean food. I’m an utter novice at cooking most dishes, except for kimchi–which I make regularly. I’d love to see a wine pairing attempt for Korean food–and since kimchi is served most of the time, an allowance for that noble dish.

  2. Martin Redmond | December 8th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve had Syrah with chili many times and have enjoyed the pairing. I’ve also found Syrah works with Jambalaya as well, but it might be interesting to see that paired as well. I’ll have to try a Malbec with chili…

  3. Kori | December 9th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Rick and Martin,
    Thanks for the Korean food and Jambalaya suggestions. Both sound great. Cheers!

  4. Sherman | December 10th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    If there’s any kind of heat in the chili, my first choice ia a rose with a touch of residual sugar. One of my favorites is Eliseo Silva’s “Rosa de Syrah” from the Wahluke slope region (second label from Tagaris winery). With a bit of sweetness on the finish, it moderates any heat and it still has a good amount of fruit and body to stand up to the rest of a good chili.

  5. Justin | December 13th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I’d love a slightly sweet Riesling with that chili. It doesn’t seem like much of a red wine dish to me, honestly, but to each their own!

  6. Kori | December 14th, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Sherman and Justin,
    Great pairing suggestions. We’ll have to try a Rosé and Riesling with our chili sometime. Cheers!

  7. Theodore | February 14th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I agree with Justin. Spicy foods and rieslings are a good match. I would do riesling with kimchi as it is quite hot and tangy. One of my favorite pairings is a dry riesling with sushi. It dances on the palate.

  8. Kori | February 15th, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for sharing your pairing suggestions. I agree, Riesling is a great food wine and works especially well with spicy foods. Cheers!