To many folks, the idea of pairing chili and wine may seem a little odd. Of course, the reason I put these tasting events together is to show that wine can and should be included in just about any meal that is put together. The last two years were… “The Best Wines with Pizza” and “The Best Wines with Mac & Cheese”. This year I went with “The Best Wines with Chili” , and made it a chili cook-off with seven entries. How did it go?

First of all, we had a huge crowd turn out for the event. There was no place to park at the facility even though it has lots of parking available. It was a cold night, so I figured that no one walked to the event like they would normally if they lived close by. Another words, lots of folks and lots of cars. The contestants brought their chili and our Deli Department staff from the store lined them up for a true blind chili tasting. They had to mix the numbers up a couple of different times as some of the contestants came into the kitchen to see how things were going. When it all came together, no one knew which chili belonged to whom.

The wines we had lined up for the event were three sparkling wines. A Prosecco, Cava and sparkling wine from California. In reds we had syrah, bonarda, malbec, Cotes-du-Rhone, zinfandel, garnacha, and Carmenere along with a Washington blend. Sparkling wine works good with chili as the bubbles and acid break through the grease but are not over-powering, conflicting with the flavors. We felt that the smokiness of the syrah would match up nicely and the juiciness of zin works. Anything with grenache works because it is medium in weight yet spicy on the palate. Carmenere was a bit of a long shot, but the Cono Sur Vision carmenere worked out nicely and was a lot more popular then I anticipated.

The tasters voted on the chili and we received a whopping 100 votes. The top chili went to Mark Lampe who was the creator of chili #7 although he was convinced that his chili was #2. Mark received a 3 liter bottle of Bogle Phantom (an awesome bottle of wine) for his efforts. Mark beat out Kings Market Deli by one vote. Good job Mark…. His recipe may show up on this blog in the near future. It was a Texas Smoke chili. Third place, just behind the second place Deli (#5) by two votes was Jeanie Foder (#2). Her recipe was as much fun to read as it was to eat. Fourth (#1) Albert, fifth (#6) Alex Lowe, and tied for sixth and seventh, (#3) Jamie and (#4) Judy. All the chili entries were excellent and I appreciate the effort that was put into making them.

As for the wine, many were curious about sparkling wine and chili. As I pointed out earlier, the bubbles and acidity of sparkling wine are excellent for breaking down the fat and grease of chili. Also, the fruit and weight of this wine is not overpowering, but complimentary. Gewurztraminer and riesling would also work with chili that has a little heat to it.

Adami Prosecco Garbel Brut was the favorite of the three. Prosecco continues to grow in popularity. It is fresh, fruity and in most cases on the dry side. Most prosecco come in at under twenty bucks which makes them very affordable. The Roederer non-vintage brut from Mendocino, California was excellent with the chili and is one of my personal favorites. It also came in at under twenty bucks (barely) with the discount offered to the tasters. The Mont Marcal Cava Brut Reserva had a tough time at the tasting. Don’t get me wrong here, it is excellent sparkling wine from Spain. It comes in around forteen bucks which is a high price point for Cava. I believe it is worth every penny, but there is stiff competition in the under ten dollar category. Unless it is a wine that makes them jump out of their shoes, the consumer would rather seek out the less expensive but good versions of cava.

There were a couple of  surprises for me in the red wine category.  First of all, I was surprised out how many ordered the Cono Sur “Vision” Carmenere. It is a great bottle of wine that rolls in at about forteen bucks. Carmenere is not a well known varietal and is primarily produced in Chile. We thought it would be cute to have a wine from Chile at a chili cook-off. It turned out to be more then cute, it was well received.The other surprise, was the lack of interest in the Argento Bonarda from Argentina. Bonarda is another varietal that is not well known, but most who try it like it. Much like syrah, it has a smokey character to it with plum and blackberry notes. The going price for bonarda is  around ten bucks or under making them an excellent value. The Argento came in at under nine dollars and few ordered it. I am puzzled, but this is not the first time. Just when I think I have folks figured out, I find out that I am wrong. It looks like my crystal ball needs some polishing.

Other favorites were the High Note Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, the Helix syrah from Washington, Andre Brunel Cotes-du-Rhone and the Deloach Heritage zinfandel from California. All in all, it was a very successful event. I will have detailed notes on all the wines presented along with my scores  in the near future. Now, it is on to the tasting next month… “Fifteen Under Fifteen in February”, fifteen wines under fifteen bucks. This will be the fourth year we have presented this theme and it is always well received. For now, I will continue in my quest to keep finding excellent values in wine and passing that info on to you. Cheers! Stan The Wine Man

About Stan The Wine Man

I am a blue collar wine guy who has been in the biz for over twenty years. I work at a store in a tourist destination stop. I work hard at finding the best wine for the money. I love the challenge of learning my customer's palate so I can find the best wine for them, whether it is Petrus or white zinfandel. Cheers!
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