By Missa Capozzo
National Chili Day falls on the fourth Thursday of each February. There truly is a day for everything; isn’t there? With winter in full force, what better time to whip up a batch of this popular comfort food to serve alongside your favorite wine? One internet search for chili recipes will produce hundreds upon hundreds of fun and delicious chili variations right at your fingertips.
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 crisp, fruit-forward white, such as a Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige region of Italy, or an off-dry white, such a Riesling from Mosel, Germany. A fruity red, with medium tannins, such as Pinot Noir or Shiraz from Australia, would be a true delight for any red wine lover. A pot of chili heavy on the spice would be better paired with a semi-sweet or sweet wine.
Sweet and spicy is a much-loved, delicious combination. Molasses chili offers just that. That bit of sweetness blanketing the spice allows you to pair your chili with a fruit forward, juicy red, such as a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer white wines, an off-dry Malvasia Bianca or Gewurztraminer would be perfection on the palate. If you prefer your white wines on the drier side, try a fruit-forward, soft, yet fuller bodied, Pinot Gris from Oregon.
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 Caribbean staples, providing the palate with a tropical essence. A 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, aromatic white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Torrontes, and, especially, a crisp, dry Riesling from Alsace, France. If your palate prefers the presence of just a little residual sugar to balance out the spice, off-dry whites, such as Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region of New York, are true perfection. Reds, soft in tannins, but forward in fruit, such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Merlot, are incredibly complimentary, as well.
Vegetarians rejoice! A chunky vegetable chili provides all the delectable flavors of traditional chili, but brimming with an array of vegetables. Vegetarian chili can be made as mild or spicy as you wish, depending on the spice level of any salsa and/or amount of chili powder used. A mild version would be ideal with almost any white, red, or even rose. A spicier version would pair best with an off-dry or semi-sweet white, such as Chenin Blanc, or soft, fruit forward, mild red, such as Beaujolais.
Whip up a batch of your favorite chili this National Chili Day and toast to spring being right around the corner!
About the Author: Missa Capozzo, CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd
Missa is the EVP of Product Development and Sommelier at Worcester’s first and only urban winery, Sail to Trail WineWorks. Throughout her career, she has taught students of all levels of experience and interest in classes, wine dinners, and lifestyle experiences. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others. When not fully immersed in the world of wine, Missa is a self proclaimed “obsessed dog mom” to her Boston Terrier, Peyton.
Reprinted from the February 2020 edition of the South Shore Senior News.