October 30, 2013 10:35 pm

Chili Cook Off: What to drink with chili

It’s one of the great culinary questions: ‘What should we drink with this?’

When it comes to the River City Round Up’s Chili Cook Off this Friday in Churchill Square, we’ve gone straight to the pro. Beverage guru Gurvinder Bhatia shares his expertise with viewers every weekend on Global’s Morning News – and he’s put together a list of wine and beer to pair with chilis from mild to spicy, vegetarian to super-meaty.

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Marotti Campi Verdicchio ‘Luzano’, Marche, Italy

This is a dry wine that is not oak-dominant. Whether wine or beer, Bhatia notes two general characteristics to avoid when it comes to wine: heavy oak and heavy tannins. Especially when paired with a spicy chili, oaky and tannic wines could appear to taste more bitter.  He would pair this wine with a vegetarian chili, or possibly a meat-based chili that is light on spice.

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Maycas del Limari Pinot Noir Reserva Especial, Limari Valley, Chile

This wine will also pair well with less spicy veggie or meat chilis, says Bhatia. He points out the key is choosing a wine that is well balanced.

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Renwood Zinfandel, California, USA

“Zinfandel works well for a chili that’s a bit spicy,” Bhatia tells us. He describes this California Zin as having a silky texture, with some spice, great balance and a fruit flavour that isn’t too over the top.

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Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano, Tuscany, Italy

For wines that can stand up to a spicier, meatier chili Bhatia recommends the Barco Reale di Carmignano from a family-run winery in Tuscany that he knows firsthand. He points to the Sangiovese and Cabernet in this wine as varietals that pair well with food.

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Finca Decero Malbec ‘Remolinos Vineyard,’ Mendoza, Argentina

“Malbec doesn’t usually go great with food, unless it’s a big hunk of meat,” says Bhatia.  What makes this one different is its balance and backbone. Bhatia describes it as having the ability to stand up to meaty dishes, “It’s a very elegant style of Malbec.”

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Alley Kat Amber, Edmonton. Dos Equis Amber, Mexico. Anchor Brewing Brekle’s Brown, San Francisco

On to the beer! Just like with wine, Bhatia suggests considering how spicy the chili is and what’s gone into the recipe.  He recommends a brown or amber ale – including an Edmonton product, Alley Kate Amber.  More specifically, brown or amber ales made in the Belgian or American styles tend to be not overly bitter or overly sweet, making them good bets for quenching your thirst.

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Chimay Red Cap, Belgium

This beer will help cut the heat of a fiery chili. Bhatia describes it as “leaning toward having a hint of sweetness.”

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Warsteiner, Germany

This beer covers both ends of the spectrum.  Bhatia says it is crisp and fresh – and will therefore contrast nicely with a spicy chili.  On the other hand, its light flavour aligns it nicely with a less-heavy vegetarian chili.

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*Author’s note: This beer is the very first thing I served at my first-ever waitressing job. No one told me beer was not supposed to be served over ice. I found out only after proudly pouring the whole thing into a pint glass filled with ice cubes in front of my customer – who was also the restaurant’s owner.

Two more recommendations from Global gals will be on hand for the 23rd Annual Chili Cook Off. News Hour Anchor Carole Anne Devaney will emcee the Cook Off. Her favourite white wine is Beringer Chardonnay, and the red she likes best is Chocolate Block. When it comes to chili toppings, she’s a big fan of cheese.

Chief Meteorologist Nicole Crosbie’s thoughts turn to white wines, something fruity tame down the spiciness. Nicola likes Red Rooster and Quail’s Gate Gewürztraminers – and will bring us the weather outlook for River City Round Up live from Churchill Square.

Keep these recommendations in the back of your mind as you sample the dishes created by the 19 contestants – just $1 for a sample size and $2 for a bowl.  See you Friday, November 1st from 11:30 – 1:30.

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