Wine is enjoyed with a wide variety of meals, but pairing it with chilli can be a challenge. The flavours of chilli, which typically include beer and/or cola, cumin, chilli peppers, and various kinds of meat, herbs, spices and tomatoes, can seem very foreign to the flavours of wine. Yet, as we all know, wine can go with anything. The trick is to ask, "What do the flavours of the wine have in common with the flavours of the food?"
It takes a lot to stand up to the bold flavours of chilli. The many variations of this iconic dish span a wide range of flavours and textures, some spicy, some sweet and some salty, and there is no one best wine with chilli. However, if you are looking to pair wine with chilli, there are some basic guidelines to follow:
Tip #1: Fruit-Forward Red Wines Work better with the Strong Taste of Chilli
The best wine pairings with chilli are red wine varietals that are high in tannin (the astringent and bitter compounds in wine), acid and alcohol, such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.
These wines are bold, robust and fruit-forward, which means that they contain ripe black fruit and dark berry flavours. The fruit will help to stand up to the more pungent ingredients in the chili, such as the meat and the various spices.
Tip #2: Explore Rosé and Sparkling Wines as an Alternative to Reds
If you are looking for the fruit of these bold red wines, but are afraid to drink a big, bold red next to your bowl of chili, consider rosé or sparkling wines instead.
A rosé is an excellent option for less-experienced wine drinkers who are looking to explore the diverse world of wine. Rosé is generally lighter and fruitier than red wine, and its flavours are much more subtle, making it easier to pair with chilli.
Serve a glass of rosé with chili to family and friends who may be wary of bolder, darker wine pairings. Sparkling wine is also an excellent choice for chilli. It is high in acid, carbonation and fruit, just like a Rosé, and will go well with chili.
Tip #3: Create a Refreshing Contrast with Sweet, Crisp White Wines
Chilli can be sweet, salty, meaty and spicy all at once, so to keep it from being too heavy for pairing with wine, you're going to want to choose a wine that is light-bodied, mineral-driven and dry, like off-dry Riesling or Pinot Grigio.
These wines are lower in alcohol, making them cooler and more refreshing, which can help to maintain the chili's contrast. The fruit in both of these wines will help to bring out the fruit in the chilli, while the mineral notes will stand up to the spicy, salty ingredients in the dish.
The Bottom Line: Pairing the Best Wines with a Gastronomically Hearty Dish Like Chili
Wine is an elegant complement to the basic, homey dish of chili, so the key to enjoying wine with chili is thinking about how the wine will complement the meal. A big red wine will balance the flavors in a bowl of chili, while a white wine can refresh you after indulging in such a filling dish. For beginners, Rosé and sparkling wines are an excellent choice for chilli.
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