Since getting back from Chile a couple weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about empanadas. I love perogies, dumplings, samosas and the like, and these little savoury Chilean pockets of heaven fit right into that wheelhouse.
The delicious baked (or sometimes fried) pockets of dough are typically served with pevre, a fresh cilantro-driven pico de gallo-type salsa, and come with various fillings.
At most of our stops where we had empanadas, there was almost always a meatless option — typically fairly mild in the spice department (as is the case with most Chilean fare), and featuring a filling of some combination of cheese, onion, and mushroom. This 2009 New York Times recipe riffs on a mushroom and cheese empanada served to the writer at Casa Lapostolle in Chile.
I just tasted all the Keint-he wines as part of MWC’s forthcoming Wine Club feature, and the 2011 Keint-he Voyageur Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County might be the perfect fit here. It’s an incredibly light Pinot Noir but brings very classic flavours of mushroom, earth and cherry flavours that would work well with the filling without being overwhelmed by spice.
Chicken empanadas tend to ramp up the spice (but only slightly), with paprika, cumin and chili powder added to the filling as well as green olive and/or hard-boiled egg. This example seems pretty typical.
Wine-wise, I had many of these with both whites and reds, but it seems to me that something like Niagara’s Creekside 2012 Laura’s White would be a home run. It’s nearly two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc — about 90 per cent of Chilean whites I had were Sauv Blancs — fleshed out with Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Lean, racy and with a bit of spice — perfect.
Beef and onion is the most common filling for empanadas, and is typically the spiciest (although once again, not very spicy). It’s often accentuated with raisin and/or black olive in the filling, which can add a slightly sweet/savory component. Once again, Florence Michicant of the New York Times went right to the source, modifying this recipe from (charming) Chilean Master Sommelier Héctor Vergara.
If you’re talking Chilean red, you’re often talking Cabernet Sauvignon or Carmenère. In that spirit, the Moon Curser 2012 Border Vines seems the ideal choice; it’s a blend of five Bordeaux grape varieties, including Carmenère, and is the only wine on the MWC website to feature the grape (there’s VERY little Carmenère made in Canada).
The wine will have decent body with deep red and black fruit notes from the Osoyoos sunshine and a hint of spice. Paired up with some beef empanadas, it sounds pretty much like a match made in heaven.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.