Pairing Wines with Chili

The Kiwanis Clubs of Hilton Head Island present the 33rd Annual Chili Cookoff on Saturday September 30 with all-you-can-eat chili prepared by amateur and professional chefs. Let’s raise our glasses to celebrate this charitable event with a look at different chili styles paired with the perfect wine.

True Texas Chili Texas is the birthplace of chili, and anyone raised in the Lone Star State knows beans or pasta in chili is strictly forbidden. While tomatoes and onions are “allowed,” a true Texas chili is usually just beef slowly simmered with peppers and spices.

Originating in the 1800s along the Texas cattle trails, range cooks would prepare a pot of fresh beef with wild-grown seasonings for the cowhands. So, it’s not surprising that Argentina, with its history of gauchos from the Pampas, would be the country to find a wine to pair with this dish. A spicy, young Argentinian Malbec or Carmenere will bring out the rich flavors brought on by the slow simmering of beef, peppers and spices.

Chili Verde or Green Chili This chili originates in Northern Mexico and New Mexico showcasing succulent pork simmered in a sauce created from mild green hatch peppers, garlic and tomatillos. The tart and tangy tomatillo gives this dish its unique flavor.

Building upon this flavor profile, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with tart citrus notes would be a perfect match. Also, a semi-dry Rhine Valley Riesling with floral aromas and high acidity would wash down Chile Verde just fine.

White Chili – A pale- colored chili may look boring, but don’t be fooled. Made with turkey or chicken and white kidney beans, it’s loaded with subtle and complex flavors.

Depending on your mood, France’s Loire Valley offers both whites and reds that stand up to the spice without overpowering the subtle poultry flavors. For a red, try a Gamay—light in color and full of earthiness and berry flavors. For a white, try a Sancerre with its classic flavors of fruit, earth and minerals.

Black Bean Vegetarian Chili At first glance, this dish would seem to defy the essence of chili, which is defined by building flavors around slowly simmered meat.

However, a vegetarian recipe can truly recapture this essence with an assist from the perfect wine. Corn, cumin and black beans create a background for a bold, chewy red wine to shine. Try an Old Vines Zinfandel from Paso Robles or Amador County California.

Cincinnati Chili Sitting on a bed of pasta, loaded with beans and topped with piles of cheese, this style of chili may aggrieve a true Texas Chili purist, but it is darn good.

This ultimate Northern comfort food deserves an equally exceptional comfort wine, perhaps these flavors can come from Spain. For a red, try a Spanish Rioja, similar to Cabernet, but more mellow and fruity. For a white, try one of Spain’s best-kept secrets, an aged Verdejo from the Rueda region. Subtle in taste with a hint of toasted almonds, a Spanish Verdejo will complement all the spicy, cheesy goodness in a classic Cincinnati Chili.