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Managing editor Kim Marcus joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beats include Austria, Greece, southern France and Portugal.
Kim Marcus

A Good Red for Chili

Mas des Brunes Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue Cuvée des Cigales 2007

Kim Marcus
Posted: March 21, 2011

I like my chili, and other types of Southwestern fare, with a good dose of spicy (though not overpowering) heat. But that same heat is a tough companion for wine. So I’m always on the hunt for wines that can be good fits for savory and spicy cuisines.

On a cold winter night, I dived into my larder to help warm me up. Making chili takes on industrial proportions in the Marcus household, so a fair amount went into the freezer for future portions. Rummaging through my cellar, I found a Languedoc red that was just the ticket for that night’s meal.

The Cuvée des Cigales from Mas des Brunes comes from the Côtes de Thongue, north of the city of Béziers. Though it has a vin de pays designation, this quiet vineyard area is one of the quality centers of southern France’s vast Languedoc region. Mas des Brunes winery, located in Magalas, is a small family operation run by Claude and Isabelle Bertrand, who both have day jobs in the same village.

Cuvée des Cigales is a blend of 55 percent Syrah, 35 percent Grenache and 10 percent Carignane; the Syrah comes from an old-vine plot with extremely low yields. The 2007 is firm and muscular, with pepper, spice and dried red fruit flavors—and plenty of meaty notes as well. Its warm allure was just the match for my hot dish of chili; I rated it 89 points, non-blind, and it cost $19.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Mas des Brunes Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue Cuvée des Cigales 2007 (89, $18).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated reds from the Languedoc.

Randal Dick
Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A. —  March 21, 2011 7:08pm ET
I'm a big chilli and wine fan myself, so thank you for the Languedoc idea. Chianti is my go-to wine for this spicy dish. I find that the acidity of the Sangiovese grape cuts through the spice and pairs well with the tomato component of the dish.
Barry P Krug
Folsom, California, USA —  March 22, 2011 7:31am ET
While not able to have this particular wine available to taste and compare my observations, versus your palate impressions, I have but one desire from all who propose a review of any future wine, be it red or white. Quite basic really, please include, always, the ETOH=Alcohol percentage of every wine submitted. Why? You might ask? Presently a majority of wines reviewed these days, have alcohols between 14.5% - 15.2%. My point is, table wine was originally supposed to range between 11% to 13%. This once established acceptable range, made for wine, that when shared with ones special someone, allowed for the easy consumption of a 750ml bottle between to adults, with a good meal, without the concomitant effects that today's 14.5 or higher alcohol wines deliver. I understand fully the proposition that physiologically mature grapes give all the proper numbers and desired flavor spectrum's, but they fail to provide the enjoyment factor that lower alcohol wines time and again deliver. Perhaps it's time to re-think the goal, and remember that if a given wine is too high in alcohol, not even thinking about the effects those high alcohol wines have on those who consume them, we may be heading to self limiting those bottles and in turn looking in the future for wines whose ETOH is more restrained, and thus provide us experienced wine consumers with wine we can enjoy without worry of intoxication from a simple evening of expected relaxation. Furthermore, though these 14.5% or higher wines have perfect fruit and balance, are they just an exercise in enological scientific purpose, or do they really desire to provide a drinking experience without the additional loss of enjoyment that sharing a bottle brings.
Brandon Redman
Seattle, WA —  March 22, 2011 10:58am ET
Kim, I was just about to make a batch of chili myself, so thanks for the suggestion!

Barry: while I appreciate your preference for lower-alcohol wines, the differentiating result on two adults of 2-4% more ETOH can't be very significant. There's no way you're significantly more "buzzed" due to that incremental increase! You're free to prefer lower-alc wines to be sure, but chalk it up to personal preference, not to how intoxicated a high-alc bottle makes you and your partner!
Morewine Bishar
Del Mar, California —  March 22, 2011 1:48pm ET

"My point is, table wine was originally supposed to range between 11% to 13%."

When was originally? Who did the supposing? Where are these "rules" written down? When did you or I agree to them? In the nineteenth century, people thought it was just fine to serve Sauternes with the fish course. Rhine Rieslings were the most expensive wines on the market, because of demand. Were all those people wrong?

"In matters of taste, their can be no dispute." But there always is.

David Clark
for The Wine Connection
Jason T Pett
USA —  March 22, 2011 3:39pm ET
when will you be tasting the 07 Tempier's?
Richard Lee
Napa —  March 24, 2011 8:38pm ET
I appreciate your comments, BUT, please, they really don't make much sense. Sorry if you are unable to appreciate wines above 13%.
Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  March 26, 2011 10:35am ET
Great suggestion, Kim, I have struggled to find reds that pair well with spicier cuisines.

On the sub-topic, why must people advocate in this partisan way for a change to the wine others like, rather than simply do the (same amount of) legwork others do to find the wines THEY like. No one's opinion of my personal tastes is relevant.

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