Odd Pair: Turkey Chili, Fritos, French's, and Demi-Sec Vouvray

Categories: Wine Time

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Labor Day weekend found us in Orange, Texas, visiting with Tracie P's parents and family. Following our nephew Brady's football game, Mrs. B -- my mother-in-law -- had a lot of hungry mouths to feed on a rainy East Texas evening, including her three grandchildren, a six-months pregnant daughter (Tracie P), daughter Misty, two sons-in-law, not to mention sister Ida Jean, and Rev. B. (Standing nearly seven feet tall, Rev. B can eat!)

A seasoned pro, Mrs. B polished up the Crock-Pot early Friday morning and set about making her turkey and bean chili. Can you think of a better dish for a healthy meal on the first rainy night in Texas since anyone can remember?

Like soup, chili -- whatever the ingredients -- poses a nearly insurmountable challenge for even the most experienced fine wine connoisseur. Not only is it served piping hot, it's also spicy. The intensity of heat -- whether temperature or seasoning -- eliminates the great majority of fine wines because any nuance in the wine would be inevitably overwhelmed by the extreme nature of the chili.

Luckily, Tracie P and I had come prepared. Have wine, will travel: Whenever we head out on a road trip, we always pack the cooler with some of our favorite wines and snacks.

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And we had the perfect wine to pair with Mrs. B's turkey chili, topped with Fritos (de rigueur), French's mustard, and (for my second helping, right) shredded orange cheddar: 2009 Demi-Sec Vouvray, made from Chenin Blanc grapes by Château de Montfort in the Loire Valley of France. (You can pick it up at Spec's for less than $15.)

The gentle sweetness of this wine (demi-sec denotes semi-dry) was ideal for the spiciness of the chili (think of the sweetness of Sprite but halved). But the thing that really took it over the top was Chenin Blanc's natural tongue-splitting acidity combined with the wine's unctuous mouthfeel. A bite of soppy Fritos followed by the delicate viscosity of the Vouvray revealed flavors I never imagined beans, turkey, and bell peppers could have. The balance of sweetness, minerality, intense acidity, and texture gave the wine the right stuff to stand up to the bold chili.

Historically, Chenin Blanc was vinified in this style (whereby fermentation is arrested so that not all the grape's sugar turns to alcohol) because the sweetness acts as a natural preservative and helps to balance the bright acidity in the Chenin Blanc.

But who knew it would pair so well with Friday night lights? At $15 a pop, my only regret was that I hadn't brought a second bottle from my stash.



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Spec's Warehouse

2410 Smith St., Houston, TX

Category: General

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14 comments
Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

I'm not one to back down from a blog fight but I am going to concede here: the dish would be more aptly called Ground Turkey Stew with Beans and Bell Peppers. And I agree: the designation "chili" is used in an excessively liberal manner in our country. 

So my question to the chili dogmatists is the following: where do I need to go to get some sanctioned chili for an upcoming Odd Pair post? Let me know and I'll get on it! :) 

Bruce R
Bruce R

I've cranking out awesome green chili with pork. Might even put white beans in it next time.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

A crock pot.  Turkey.  Beans...  Son, this isn't even close to chili.  I'll assume Mrs. B. didn't grow up anywhere near here.  What she served was goulash.  Be sure and correct her mistake next time you visit.  She'll thank you later.

Ben Carter
Ben Carter

Jeremy: You know I'm a huge fan of the Frito Pie, and I believe in a prior blog post your wife concurred that it's best consumed out of the plastic bag that's been slit open during a high school football game.  

Vouvray is a great choice, and it's one of those weird styles that doesn't get the attention or recognition it deserves.  It's French, the bottles are classy, but it's also crazy affordable, and you can get it sweet, dry, medium sweet, or sparkling depending on your mood.  Additionally, it's not a hard word to say if you don't know French.  I wish Languedoc had a simpler name for their easy, casual, affordable bottles.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

My wife made a big pot of chili (with beans!) last night. We drank a few bottles of Real Ale Oktoberfest with it. It was delicious. We're making frito chili pie with the leftovers, tonight. I just might swing by Spec's on the way home and grab a bottle of this.

The Chili Police
The Chili Police

The first rule about making chili in Texas is that it must contain no beans. If it does, it is now considered a condiment or soup or I don't know what, but it's not chili.

Joanie Karapetian
Joanie Karapetian

Love this!  Affordable, delightful and pairs well with Chili!  I need to find some of this Vouvray in CA!

Vadubadu
Vadubadu

How's that fart treating you today?  I bet you like the smell of your own brand, don't ya.

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Ale and beer are definitely the way to go! I was surprised at how great the Vouvray paired... When are we getting a Fernet Branca, btw? 

CathyMat
CathyMat

I was WAITING for this comment!

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

You'd love that wine... such great value... 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Chili Police, they're a little more lax on the Texas-Louisiana border... ;) 

Seriously, I am with you that Chili con Carne by definition does not contain beans. And in Texas, the apotheosis of chili is Chili con Carne, otherwise known as Chili.

The Chili Police
The Chili Police

We're still trying to clean up the city of Cincinnati for what they've done to the good name of chili. Those bastards put it on spaghetti... why not just call it meat sauce with beans.

AC
AC

I was told that chili with beans is called "Hollywood Chili"

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