April may be the cruelest month, but January is surely the coldest. It's the perfect time to break out big, robust red wines that warm your body and soul. And what better to eat with a big red wine than a big steaming bowl of chili?
This weekend we had about a dozen people over for a blind tasting of six Carmeneres, all from Chile (the country--don't get Chile and chili confused!). Carmenere is Chile's signature grape, brought over from Bordeaux in the late 19th century. The wine is deeply dark and full-bodied, and in Chile can have a somewhat vegetal flavor, though it can also be quite fruity and spicy.
The six we tried ranged in price from $10 to $47. Chile is known around the world for its value wine, and it definitely delivered in our tasting. When the bags were pulled off, it turned out that several of us put the $10 wine in our top favorites. Surprisingly, everyone from the least- to the most-experienced tasters felt that all of the wines were good, and comparable in their quality, even though the prices were not.
More tasting notes and my "Chili for a Crowd" recipe after the jump.
Favorite of the tasting: 2005 Montes Carmenere "Purple Angel" ($47). The wine was dark, deep, rich, and complex with smooth tannins and a fairly long finish.
Best value: 2007 Concha y Toro Carmenere "Cassillero del Diablo" ($10). Though the Concha y Toro didn't have a noticeable bouquet, it was quite fruity, with flavors of black currants and spice. As with all of Concha y Toro's offerings, it's a great value and widely available in the U.S.
Highly recommended: 2006 Caliterra Carmenere "Tribute" ($17). For its price, you can't beat the quality fruit and delicious taste of this wine.
Carmenere is a great wine to pair with red meats, hearty stews, and other winter food, but I decided to make chili since it's easy to throw everything in a pot and let it simmer during the wine tasting. Here's my recipe.
Chili for a Crowd
3 pounds ground beef
3 large onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (leave some seeds for more heat)
2 12-ounce bottles of dark beer
6 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
6 cans diced tomatoes
5 tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons black pepper
Combine ground beef, onions, garlic, and jalapenos in a large pot and cook over medium heat until beef is no longer pink. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1-2 hours. Serve with grated cheddar, sour cream, and tortilla or corn chips.
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