Bison Chili Wine Pairing

I asked Georgia and Susanne, aka The Wine Ladies, for a pairing for Bison Chili where I was using the hot, citrusy, smoky and nutty flavours of dried Pequin Peppers and Cumin.  The Wine Ladies emphatically stated power with power and spice with spice, then recommended Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Carménère or a Malbec.  My dear husband, Rick, won’t buy French wines saying that they just send their swill to Canada, so I headed for an Argentinian wine to try.

According to Wine Folly because Malbec doesn’t have a super long finish, it’s a good choice for meats with less fat like Bison.  It also works well with “funky flavors like blue cheese and rustic flavors like mushrooms and Cumin”, which is exactly the spice in my chili.


LCBO directed me to the Argentina section for a large selection of Malbec wines.  I don’t know one vintner from another, which is why we need people like the Wine Ladies, so I choose a couple of bottles by a tried and true method … a pretty label.   Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2011 and Norton Reserva Malbec  2010 were selected.

There is so little time and so much damn wine, but I really need to visit the Ontario wine trail just like we did in Sonoma.  Visiting wineries, especially the small ones, does two things.  Most obviously you get to taste wine, but what I love is learning about the vintner and picking their brains.   What grapes they are using, what they are trying to accomplish and what food comes to mind when they are designing their wines.

I won’t buy Canadian wines without having tasted them or by a recommendation from a foodie like me.   I was delighted when an unexpected recommendation of Henry of Pelham’s Baco Noir, as being a “lush red, best served with food”, was dropped by a Twitter acquaintance Shelley Nelson.

I opened the Norton and the Henry Pelham and gave for a blind taste test with dear hubby.  Rick confirmed the smooth short finish on them both, saying that the Norton was a little fuller, while I commented on the lovely bouquet on the Pelham.  With no clear preference, but being patriotic, we opted to serve the Ontario wine with the Bison chili and sadly both are all gone.

Beretta Bison Chili

My local Metro has stepped up in all areas from produce and vinegars to adding new meat products like from our local Beretta Farms.  I  also get to swipe my AirMiles card at Metro for points.

With all these winter storms, I was feeling chili.  I mean I was craving the heat and smoky comfort of chili .  Last week, at Metro, I picked up Beretta Farms Ground Bison for a change of pace and I was not disappointed.

I was delighted to speak with Beretta directly about the husbandry of their Bison and to get an inside track on how to prepare it.  What appeals to me about Beretta is their focus on raising animals that are grass fed, and mature slowly without stress and without the use of antibiotics or hormones, ever.

While Ontario is the largest market for beef, the majority of producers ranch out West.  Beretta Bison are also raised on the grasslands of Alberta, my home province and where I spent many a happy day on my Uncle’s ranch.

Beretta Farms Bison Chili with Master and Commander

A grass fed animal tastes very different than corn or grain fed.   You eat a steak in Calgary and compare it to a steak in Ontario and, regardless of the cut, the grass makes a difference.   Beretta bison are mostly grass fed with a finish of grain.

Plains bison co-evolved with the grassland biome and survive as a wild species.  Bison have a lower metabolic rate and well-muscled head for clearing snow, so they are less stressed during winter.  Even in the summer cattle gravitate towards wooded shade, making bison better at year round foraging.

Bison are also naturally low in fat and cholesterol, but high in protein, vitamin and minerals.   The lower fat content means watching for overcooking, but I didn’t notice any difference when cooking the ground Bison.

I also asked my Tweeps about wine pairings for bison.  Thanks to Shelley Nelson of Waterloo and the Wine Ladies, Georgia and Susanne, I opened a Henry of Pelham Baco Noir and an Argentinian Malbec, and both were perfect recommendations for my spicy version of bison chili.

Bison Chili Ingredients

Sweet Yellow Onions – one medium to large chopped

Sunflower  Oil

Minced Garlic – two cloves

Cumin – a titch

Hot Spanish Paprika – 1/2 teaspoon

Chili Flakes – in our house liberal (I used Pequin Chili  this time because it has a nice smoky heat]

Salt – sprinkling

*optional oregano

Bison Ground Beretta Farms – around 1 pound * I also threw in small piece left over beef tenderloin

tomato sauce – one plus one-half jars of preferably organic sauce

tomatoes – diced – 1 can

red wine – anything, a splash

maple syrup – a touch, I’m loving Maddington’s Maple Syrup

corn kiblets – 1 cup thawed from frozen Green Organic*

*ideally fresh, but hey we live in Canada so this product is grown in China, I look for organic, gluten free processing that is handpicked and flash frozen

white kidney beans – one can organic


Saute the onions in oil.

Add and cook Bison.

Add seasonings.

Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Add veggies.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Serve with corn chips or dark bread.  For me, I buy “Pumpernickel” bread from Voilá Gluten Free Bakeree in Oakville **the best ever!

Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 10-1-1999-Comparative Ecology of Bison and Cattle on Mixed Grass Prairie, Steuter and Hidinger