There are a couple of things to keep in mind when pairing wine and chili. First, if you like 5-alarm chili, there isn’t a wine on the planet that will work well with it. The spice will completely take over the wine. You’re better off sticking with beer in this case. My “Zinful” Chili recipe has a nice zing that will work beautifully with a big jammy, spicy Zinfandel from California.  I also like to add some Zinfandel to the chili as another way to integrate the flavors. Another thing to keep in mind, alcohol tends to exacerbate the heat, so while Zinfandels tend to have higher alcohol it still works well if you serve it slightly chilled with a mild, flavorful chili. The warmer the wine the more pronounced the alcohol will appear. Chilling the Zinfandel also make the bright jammy fruits pop more on your palate.  A sparkling Malbec is also a fun alternative, but they are a bit difficult to find.

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Recipe: Beef Chili (Paleo-friendly) 


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (93%)
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 bell peppers (red, green & yellow), large dice
1 large yellow onion, large dice
1 jalapeño, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. cumin
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Zinfandel
1-28 oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or beef stock (homemade) – if using a store bought broth, make sure it’s gluten-free and low-sodium


Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add ground beef and let brown for about 8-10 minutes. Drain off excess fat, then add garlic, jalapeno, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder & Italian seasoning and combine. Add 1/4 cup Zinfandel (optional). Then add peppers, onions, crushed tomatoes. For thicker chili just one cup of stock. Let simmer for an hour and serve. Garnish with fresh mashed avocados in place of sour cream and scallions. Serves 6-8.

One other note, since this is chili, I would recommend a budget friendly wine for this dish. You have alot of flavors going on, so the wine really won’t take center stage but play more of a supporting role.

Everyday Wine (Under $15)

Mid-Priced ($16-30)

  • Jelly Jar Zinfandel, Lake County, California (I absolutely adore this Zinfandel, but depending on where you live, it can be hard to find so you may need to buy it online direct from the vineyard, I included the link for your convenience)
  • Federalist Zinfandel, Dry Creek, California – Available at Yianni’s Wine Shop (Virginia Beach) & Total Wine


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