When asked to give my top four chili and wine pairing suggestions, I was all too excited to oblige. Let’s get spicy!
There’s nothing like a bowl of hot, classic chili. Chili is traditional comfort food, a game-day staple, and the subject of cook-offs all across America. Classic chili with mild to medium spice would pair beautifully with a dry or off-dry white wine, or even a fruity red soft in tannins such as Pinot Noir. A pot of chili heavy on the spice would be better paired with a semi-sweet or even sweet white.
Sweet and spicy is a loved, delicious combination. That bit of sweetness blanketing the spice allows you to pair your chili with a nice, fruit forward red, such as a Zinfandel or even a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer white wines, an off-dry Riesling would be perfection on the palate.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the unique spices and flavor combinations of the cuisine. Mango and cilantro are a Caribbean staple, providing the palate with a tropical essence. This Caribbean chili recipe offers the best of all flavors, including the heat of habanero peppers with the sweet citrus of orange juice and warmth of allspice. This fusion of flavors pairs well with crisp, fruity white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Torrontés, off-dry whites such as Riesling, and reds soft in tannins but forward in fruit, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Vegetarians rejoice! This chunky vegetable chili provides all the delectable flavors of traditional chili, but brimming with an array of vegetables. This recipe can be made as mild or spicy as you wish, depending on the spice level of the salsa and amount of chili powder. A mild version would be idea with almost any white, red, or even rosé. A spicier version would pair best with an off-dry or semi-sweet white or soft, fruit forward, mild red.
Wine and chocolate, a match made in heaven in this wine lover’s opinion. I tell my students, when in doubt, grab a bag of dark chocolate and a bottle of tannic red wine, and you will have an evening of deliciously paired bliss. There is so much to explore in the world of chocolate and wine. Valentine’s Day is upon us, and what better time than to take our taste buds on a sweet adventure?
White chocolate and Pinot Noir is probably the most surprising and delicious chocolate and wine pairing I’ve ever experienced. Pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir, then put a square of quality white chocolate on your tongue and savor. While the chocolate is melting, raise the glass to your nose and breathe in the aromas of the wine. You will start to taste an incredible vanilla flavor that wasn’t noticeable before. Once you’ve enjoyed this sensation, take a sip of the wine, coating the white chocolate as it continues to melt, and enjoy pure bliss.
Old vine Zinfandels are some of my favorite wines, and I’m absolutely obsessed with pairing them with dark chocolate raspberry, such as Ghirardelli dark chocolate raspberry squares. Zinfandels are so jammy and fruit forward that these chocolate squares will turn that wine into liquid raspberry on the palate in the most heavenly of ways.
Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have undertones of eucalyptus or mint, which makes these hefty reds the ideal partner for chocolate mint. You can go beyond dark chocolate mint candies and pair them with Mint Milanos, Thin Mint cookies, or even grasshoppers.
I enjoy the flavor of coffee in pretty much anything, and chocolate is no exception. You will bring out a delicious earthy, mocha note when pairing red wine with dark chocolate covered espresso or coffee beans. Earthier varietals like Cabernet Franc and Pinotage will truly impress with this delightful pairing.
A fun and unusual combination I have grown to love is dark chocolate chili, which provides a nice spicy kick. Enjoy this with a nice Syrah/Shiraz, and watch the fruit and spice dance happily on the palate, switching off who takes the lead.
What about white wines? These can be a bit tricky, especially the drier ones, as too much sugar will amplify the acid, resulting in an unpleasant bitter taste. I have found the heavier bodied oakier whites, such as Chardonnay, pair wonderfully with creamy white chocolate, or even milk chocolate covered nuts or turtles. Try an off-dry white, such as a Riesling, or a sweeter white, such as a Moscato, with milk chocolate caramels with sea salt.
Want to explore a little outside the box? Try chocolate covered bacon for a new and exciting twist. This gives you the best of the wine pairing world: salt and fat blanketed in decadent chocolate. You could even drizzle chocolate on some salty kettle chips for a similar effect.
When it comes to wine and chocolate pairing, the best part is the “research”!