Wines can accompany unpretentious dishes such as stews made with inexpensive cuts of meat and other budget ingredients. The key to pairing wine with chili is to consider what flavor profiles will the chili have. For example, tomato-based dishes can benefit from a dry red wine, while astringent white chili goes well with a crisp white wine. Evaluate the chili’s flavor profile and try to match with a wine that can stand up to the flavor in the chili.
Determine the type of wine you will pair with your chili based on what ingredients the chili contains. Pair red wines with tomato-based chilis, especially those that feature beef and lamb. The acidity from the tomatoes blends well with a dry red wine such as a Zinfandel, Bonardo, Malbec or Tempranillo wine. Conversely, white chilis are better accompanied by a dry white wine.
Drink a California Zinfandel along with a beef and bean chili. Zinfandel has the structure and acidity to compete with the strong flavors of chili.
Try a Primitivo wine, an Italian cousin to Zinfandel. Primativo, like the Zinfandel, has a lot of flavor and high alcohol content. These two factors prevent the aromas and flavor of this wine from getting muddled by the strong, spicy flavors of chili. A medium-bodied wine, Primativo will match well with chili that contains cumin, oregano and diced onion.
Experiment with a smoky Syrah. Sryah has a lot of spicy notes, which you can match with spicy dishes such as chili. Pair a slightly sweet syrah with notes of pepper to tame the heat from the spicy peppers in your chili. This wine has a strong body, which will accompany meat chili.
Pair an inexpensive Spanish red such as a Garnacha or Tempranillo with thick chili that contains chili powder or even cocoa, as well as chili that features bite-sized chunks of stew meat, instead of ground meat. These Spanish wines have earthy cherry flavors and firm structure suitable for meat dishes, in particular lamb.
Pair a pork chili with a bold, spicy malbec from Argentina. Malbec won’t get muddled by the acid and spiciness of chili.Try a malbec with a dark fruity color and hints of black pepper.
Avoid delicate wines and those that have a lot of tannins, such as a cabernet sauvignon or a pinot noir.
Avoid chardonnays when eating a spicy, meaty tomato-based chili, as it will put too much accent on the oaky flavors of a chardonnay.
References and ResourcesNPR: Wines That Go Well With Super Bowl Food
Food and Wine: Chili Recipe Slideshow
Epicurious; Top 5 Bad Wine Pairings; Ted Loos