Best Wine with Chili con Carne

Chili con carne is a great dish to pair with wine, but it can be hard to know just what to do. There are so many different varieties of chili con carne available that it’s hard to know which one will go with which type of wine.

So I’ve put together this list of recommendations for some different types of red and white wine so you can enjoy your meal.

Red Wine with Chili con Carne

Red wines pair well with chili con carne. They are the perfect choice for this dish because they have a lot of flavor, which can work well with the spicy, tangy flavors of chili.

Medium Body

Medium-bodied red wines are a natural pairing with chili con carne. These wines tend to be lighter in body and have fewer tannins, making them a great choice for complementing the flavor of your dish.

Red wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel are all good options for enjoying with chili con carne.

Merlot

Merlot is a soft-in-body wine that has the character and aromas of cherry or raspberry fruit flavors. This is an excellent choice if you’re looking for something sweet but not cloyingly so. It also has hints of earthy muskiness that can add another layer of complexity to your dish by bringing out its spices and sweetness together in harmony.

Any of these Merlot will work well:

Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Merlot 2019

This mountainside Napa red, from the historic estate Mayacamas, has 5% cabernet franc in the blend that seems to lift the herbal notes on the nose. Bright blueberry fruit is balanced by savory mushroom and pencil-lead flavors that are brilliantly held by the acidity and fine firm tannins that will allow this to age.

Arietta 2019 Merlot “Hudson” Carneros Napa

The 2019 Merlot Hudson Vineyard is full of dark fruit, chocolate, and other savory notes that add complexity to the wine. The wine has a fruity bouquet, with aromas of fresh blueberries and raspberries mixed with vanilla and oak.

Château Lyonnat Emotion, Lussac Saint-Emilion, 2016

The wine’s deep and intense ruby color is accented by a powerful nose with aromas of black fruits, blackcurrant, and darker berries. Notes of toasty oak lend complexity to an already complex bouquet. 

The wine’s aroma and flavor are bold, yet elegant. The woodsy scent of truffles lingers on the palate after each sip.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon has similar characteristics as Merlot in terms of body. It’s light enough that it won’t overpower the taste buds. Yet it presents enough to complement whatever flavors there might be in your meal without being overpowered themselves by said flavors.

Try one of these Cabs with your chili con carne:

Substance ‘Cs’ Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the winery itself, “Classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Currant, blackberry, cigar box with touches of chocolate, cedar, and pencil lead. Full flavored & just so damn good. I should raise the price!”

Château Lynch-BagesPauillac (Grand Cru Classé) 2016

It exhibits a deep red color with notes of dark fruit, cassis, blackcurrants, and a distinctive hint of mint. On the palate, it is full in body with ripe tannins and cassis throughout. The finish is long.

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is distinctly dark fruit on the palate with cocoa and vanilla notes. It has gentle spices like nutmeg and cassis. The finish is smooth, long, and velvety.

Spice Match

If you’re looking for a wine that will go well with chili, there are three types of wines that may be right for you. The first is a wine made with spices. The second is a wine that has some spice in it from the aging process. The third is a wine that has been aged in oak barrels (like bourbon).

These types of wines can work well because they have some spice from the aging process or from using different flavors during fermentation.

For example, Cabernet Sauvignon has been produced for centuries so many winemakers will add oak chips or staves to the barrel before fermenting their grapes. They do this because it adds tannin and other flavors to balance out the fruitiness of this variety.

Contrast

You might want something fruity and tangy like Pinot Noir for a nice contrast to your dish. The acidity of the wine will help cut through the richness of the chili con carn. Its flavor profile can complement its earthiness.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that will complement the dish instead of contrasting it, go with a Riesling. Its sweetness will complement all of those complex spices in your chili.

Other wines that would work well include Chardonnay (especially those from France), Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, or Barbaresco. These Italian varietals are great options because they have strong fruit flavors that match up well with meaty dishes like chili con carne

White Wine with Chili con Carne

The best white wine with chili con carne is Chardonnay. If you don’t care for Chardonnay, try Sauvignon Blanc or Gewürztraminer. You can also try Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Viognier.

Why White Works

Though white wine might seem like an odd choice when paired with chili con carne, it can actually provide a really great contrast. White wine is often sweeter than red wine and can cut through the heat of chilis, which is both spicy and acidic.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to choose a white that is dryer than your dish. However, some whites are so sweet that they will completely overpower chili con carne’s spicy flavor profile.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a good choice, particularly aged examples that have more structure. Chardonnays with more oak influence will work well with chili, as will a dry or off-dry style. Just be sure to steer clear of anything cloying.

Try one of these with your chili:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

This vineyard is located in California, and it’s a great place to start your search for a good Chardonnay with crab legs. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, where the climate is ideal for growing them. Fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels for richness, toastiness, and complexity.

J. Lohr Chardonnay

This California winery has been making award-winning wines for over 30 years, and this Chardonnay is no exception. They use grapes from their own vineyards in Monterey County, which means that you can be sure the quality is always high. This wine has a rich golden color with notes of citrus and vanilla on the nose.

Ladera Vineyards Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a cool climate area. It’s aged in French oak barrels for about 15 months before being bottled and has notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts on the nose.

Hagafen Cellars “Reserve” Napa Valley Chardonnay

Made from grapes grown in Napa Valley. It has a rich golden color with notes of citrus, vanilla, and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. It’s aged for about 18 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.

Gewürztraminer

If you’re looking for a wine that’s not too heavy, try an unoaked Gewürztraminer. These wines have some acidity that can cut through the richness of the dish, making them good choices if you’re concerned about balancing out your meal with a full-bodied white. They also pair well with cheese or fruit.

I recommend one of the following:

Domaine Specht 2019 (Alsace)

The wine’s color is pale straw. The nose has aromas of hazelnuts and mint, with a hint of minerality. When tasted, this wine is very floral with notes alluding to minerals.

Joseph Cattin 2020 Hatschbourg Grand Cru (Alsace)

The nose of this wine has a touch of peach and honeysuckle. The palate deepens the fruitiness first found on the nose but finishes slightly sweet. This wine shows balance and concentration throughout.

Grgich Hills 2020 Miljenko’s Selection, Gewurztraminer, Napa Valley

Outside of Alsace this time. This wine is produced in California. It is pale straw in color with a lychee aroma with a medium body; this wine has light floral notes of jasmine green tea. A richly textured California ‘Napa Valley’ wine that could use some more time in the bottle to develop complexity. 

Conclusion

While white wine can be a good choice if you want to contrast the flavors but red wine is more versatile with chili. Red wines are generally sweeter and fuller-bodied, which makes them easier to pair with hearty dishes like chili. The varieties of flavor found in reds (e.g., fruitiness, spiciness) also make them better suited for pairing with a variety of ingredients and spices found in chili than whites will be.

My personal favorite is Cabernet Sauvignon but any of the wines discussed will work.

My go-to recipe for chili con carne is from BBC Good Food. I’ve made this one so often I know it by heart. It just works! My only tip would be to adjust the amount of hot chili powder to suit your own preference.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my others like the Best Wine for Mexican food and the Best Wine with Tacos.