If your Chili is spicy, stick to a fruity and low alcohol red wine like Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. Low alcohol wines are essential with spicy chili as high alcohol wines will make the chili taste to fiery and unappetizing.  For Chili Con Carne (Chili with Meat), fruit-forward red wines such as Zinfandel, Côte du Rhone, or Rioja, or Zinfandel are your best picks for red wine.

With Chili having a mild spice flavour – you can pair with a higher alcohol level reds, but I’d still stick to something medium-bodied.  The higher the alcohol, the more flavour a red wine will have.  The great thing with Chili is that you can control the spice level by adjusting the spice content in your Chili recipe.

I recommend pairing young red wines with all types of Chili that have low to moderate in tannin.  You want something acidic to handle the tomato sauce in your Chili, but you also want some grippy tannin to interact with the meat in your Chili.  The protein and fats in your Chili help smooth out the tannin in the wine as well, allowing all the juicy flavours to come out.

Be forewarned as well, that I am Canadian, and we do not take our Chili recipes as seriously as some of you living in the United States.  Until recently, I had no idea that there were stronger feelings than politics regarding whether that true Chili contains meat or is meatless.  If you are here to argue this point, I’ve gracefully turned off the comments, so please feel free to shout at your screen about the issue.

Best Wine Pairings with Chili

Red WineZinfandelChili
Red WineTempranilloChili, Texas Style
BeerAmerican Pale AleChili Con Carne
BeerAmerican Brown AleChili Con Carne
BeerAmerican India Pale AleChili, Texas Style
BeerAmerican Pale AleChili, Texas Style
BeerAmerican Brown AleChili, Texas Style
Red WineBeaujolais VillagesChili
Red WineCôtes du Rhône, RedChili
Red WineShirazChili
Red WineSyrahChili
BeerAmerican India Pale AleChili Con Carne
BeerIrish StoutChili Con Carne
BeerSmoked BeerChili Con Carne
BeerIrish StoutChili, Texas Style
BeerSmoked BeerChili, Texas Style
Sparkling WineCavaChili, Texas Style
Red WineMalbecChili, Texas Style
Red WineVin de Savoie - RedChili Con Carne
Red WineBlagnyChili Con Carne
Red WineCabernet FrancVegetarian Chili
Sparkling WineCavaChili
Sparkling WineProseccoChili
Red WineCôtes du Rhône, RedChili Con Carne
Red WinePinotageChili Con Carne
Red WineCarménèreChili Con Carne
Red WineRibera del Duero - CrianzaChili Con Carne
Red WineSyrah, LanguedocGuajillo Chilie
BeerWheat BeerChili
Red WineCabernet SauvignonChili
Red WineMalbecChili
White WineRieslingChili
Sparkling WineSparkling WineChili
BeerIrish StoutChili Relleno
Red WineCabernet SauvignonChili Con Carne
Red WineMalbecChili Con Carne
Red WinePinotageBlack Bean Chili
Red WineAglianicoChili

Zinfandel & Chili Con Carne Pairing

My favourite pairing with a standard bowl of Chili Con Carne (not too hot, not too saucy, and lots of meat and beans) is Zinfandel.  A mid-priced Zinfandel is a juicy red wine that is high in acidity and low in tannin.  This low tannin and high acidity structure makes Zinfandel perfect with anything tomato-based, such as a hearty beef Chili (which often contains tomatoes). Wines high in tannin will clash and come off as flat and metallic when paired up with tomato.

Fruity, with refreshing flavours of blackberry, black cherry, plum and raspberry, Zinfandel offers a nice contrast against the spiciness of your Chili.  Furthermore, you get wonderful notes of black pepper, smoke, herbs, violet and tar that mingle with the earthiness of the Chili.  Should you throw some shredded cheese on your Chili, Zinfandel will meld well with those flavours as well.

I wouldn’t pair Zinfandel with Chili that is too spicy, or that is overly tomato-based.  Zinfandel has a medium amount of tannin that won’t jive with these elements if they are dominant over the meat in your Chili Con Carne.

If you’re serving Beef Chili at a Super Bowl party, or an NFL car rally, Zinfandel is hands down the best wine to bring as it is always a crowd pleaser.

Rioja Crianza & Texas Style Chili Pairing

Rioja is a blended Spanish red wine that is primarily Tempranillo, along with other grapes such as Garnacha blended in.  Young Rioja (also known as Rioja Crianza) is sweet and fresh, with black cherry and plum flavours as well as peppery overtones that complement and contrast the Texas Style Chili. The fruity tones complement the meat flavours, while the peppery notes deliver a playful aspect to the mix.

Texas Style Chili is Chili made without beans.  Thus, you’ll find a Chili that might include meat like beef or pork, spice, a variety of peppers, brown sugar, dark beer and chocolate.

If your Texas Style Chili doesn’t contain any tomatoes (and isn’t overly spicy), I’d recommend an aged Rioja that has seen some time in oak (called Reserva or Gran Reserva).  The extra time in oak delivers deeper flavours of chocolate, smoke, vanilla, herbs, coffee and cinnamon that are wonderful the variety of ingredients found in your Texas Style Chili.

Côtes-du-Rhône & Chili Pairing

Côtes-du-Rhône is a fruit-forward red wine from the Southern Rhone region of France.  With Côtes-du-Rhône, expect vibrant flavours of raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.  You’ll also get earthy notes of black pepper, spice, smoke and meat that make it wonderful with the slow-cooked backbone of your Chili.

Côtes-du-Rhône is a blend of up to 23 different grapes, but it is typically Grenache-based, with Carignan, Mouvedre and Syrah being other popular grapes blended in.  Côtes-du-Rhône can be a tricky bottle to buy as there are so many different types of it on shelves with a variety of different blends.  However, if you keep in mind that Côtes-du-Rhône is created to be food-friendly and pair up with a wide variety of foods, you’re bound to find a great wine to pair with your Chili no matter what bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône you select.

Beaujolais Villages & Spicy Chili Pairing

Beaujolais Villages is a light, fruity and low alcohol red that is wonderful with Chili.  With vibrant flavours of cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, Beaujolais offers a nice contrast against the spicy flavours Chili.  The fruity flavours also complement the fruitier tomato notes found in your Chili.

Juicy, soft and velvety, the low alcohol content makes Beaujolais perfect with spicy Chili as it helps fan out the flames.  Meanwhile, the high acidity of Beaujolais Villages helps highlight all the different ingredients in your Chili, including the corn, beans, bell peppers, meat and spices.

Off-Dry Riesling & Spicy Turkey Chili Pairing

An off-dry Riesling is delicious with a spicy bowl of Turkey Chili as the subtle sweetness of the residual sugar found in the wine helps put out the heat in your Riesling.  With bright flavours of apricot, honey, lemon, pineapple and lime, Riesling is perfect for cutting through the starchy beans, gooey cheese and spicy heat that haunts your bowl of Chili.

Highly acidic, Riesling also lifts up all the flavours in your bowl. This ensures you taste the subtle turkey flavours, along with the corn, spices, onions, cilantro, herbs, sour cream and beans in your bowl.  The flavour profile of an off-dry Riesling also makes it wonderful with a pork Chili.

Cabernet Franc & Vegetarian Chili

Cabernet Franc, when made well, is wonderful with Vegetarian Chili featuring mushrooms, corn, cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Cabernet Franc is produced worldwide, but is often most notable for being blended into Bordeaux.  However, many winemakers are making exceptional versions of their Cabernet Franc witch are juicy with fruity notes of red currant, blackberry, raspberry, red cherry and plum.

What makes Cabernet Franc exceptional with Vegetarian Chili, however, is its notes of green bell pepper, green olives and green herbs that complement the green flavours in your Chili.  While some people dislike this greenness, I am a huge fan of it when the wine is made right.  Proper Cabernet Franc should be balanced with fruity and floral aromatics, with only a teasing of green notes disappear before the finish.

Cabernet Franc is also high in acidity, and typically low in tannin, ensuring that this red wine can handle the acidic tomatoes in your Vegetarian Chili.