During pre-deployment training, team member and critical care nurse
extraordinaire Leanne faces an ugly choice—the Chili and Macaroni MRE or
starvation. Imagine how the look
of abject horror on her face would soften with a glass (or bottle or case) of
A dish like chili and macaroni may have had its origins in Italy in recent centuries, but it has been thoroughly Americanized, where it is popularly known as “chili-mac.” The obvious pairing then is another favorite of Italian immigrants in America, zinfandel. The early Italian settlers planted these vineyards in California in the same manner of uvaggio di vigneto, or “field blend,” as they were used to in the Old World. Don’t be surprised to find bits of varieties such as carignane, petite sirah, alicante bouschet, and a host of unidentified cousins mixed in with the zinfandel.
For a contrasting pairing, let’s stick with the notion of a farm wine, in this case from the Basque Country. The production of Txakoli is a timeless tradition here, but it had been primarily produced for personal and local consumption. Now, a few dedicated producers are elevating its production to the next level, certainly in terms of quality if not volume. A respectable spine of acidity has always been one of its hallmarks, but now that feature is becoming more balanced with expressive fruit and minerality. So, this modern of expression of Txakoli has the structure to stand up to the chili-mac MRE, while nicely cleansing your palate at the same time. The relatively low alcohol means that you won’t have to feel guilty about opening that second or third bottle, especially if you’re not dining alone.
Complementary Pairing: Old Vine Zinfandel, California, USA
Try: Robert Biale Zinfandel Aldo’s Vineyard
[www.robertbialevineyards.com] The combination of vines planted in 1937 and meticulous attention in the vineyards yields a combination of dense, dark fruits and black peppery spice, with great length on the finish. This is one family wine-making operation that used ingenuity to survive the challenges of the Volstead Act, otherwise known as Prohibition. I’m particularly sympathetic to the latter given the imposed state of prohibition in my current surroundings.
Contrasting Pairing: Txakoli, Euskadi, Spain
Try: Egia Enea Txakoli, DO Bizkaiko Txakolina
[www.egiaenea.com] For most Txakolis, the principal grape variety is hondararabi zuri, but in this case it represents a minority contribution. The cornerstone for founder Alfredo Egia Cruz is hondarabbi zuri zerratia, also known as petit courbu. Low yields and carefully selecting ripe fruit add to the concentration and complexity. In addition to being food-friendly, this refreshing wine will serve you equally well on its own as your MRE heater is puffing and smoking to bring your chili-mac just a bit above the ambient temperature.