Pairing chicken with wine: Here are some tips!

Chicken and wine, a great combination.

Chicken is a blank slate of the culinary world, so pairing wine with chicken can be as simple or complicated as the recipe. With simple recipes, you’ll want a simple wine. Classic examples of wines to pair with chicken include Beaujolais for red wine and Pinot Gris for white.

Chicken is well suited to an unusually broad range of preparation and seasoning. Its healthy attributes have also made chicken, and in particular chicken breasts, a common and convenient substitution for other meats. This means that you can probably find a chicken recipe to pair with just about any wine. When you’re working in broad generalities, as we are, I’d generally defer to the method of preparation for guidance. Below are some of the most common styles of chicken preparation.

Grilled chicken and wine

As with any grilled dish, grilled chicken picks up the flavors of smoke and char that a grill imparts. In general, both contribute bitter flavors to the finished dish. As with fried chicken, it is good to have a wine that can offer up some contrast to this bitter element. In this case, a wine with a touch of sweetness will make a good match.

You can flavor grilled chicken with just about anything, and there’s always the question of saucing the chicken, which is common in dishes described as barbecue chicken. We’ll ignore the saucier dishes since very few wines have what it takes to stand up to typical barbecue sauces, though two wines that do have a chance are off-dry Lambrusco and sparkling Shiraz. Both bubbly wines help cut through the heavy sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

When pairing wines with grilled chicken, you can take advantage of residual sugar as a way to add that needed sweetness or you can opt for a wine that is perceived as sweet because of its overt fruitiness. One of our all-time favorite food and wine pairings is Jerk Chicken and young, fruity Petite Sirah. It’s idiosyncratic, but the sweetly spicy wine pairs well with the smoky, spicy chicken.

Two easy-to-find pairings for grilled chicken include off-dry Riesling for white wine and a nice, fruity Grenache for red.

Baked chicken and wine

Baked chicken dishes are similar to roasted chicken, but with the chicken cut into pieces for cooking. In fact, most baked chicken recipes tend to be health modifications of fried, sauteed and other, more fattening style of preparation. As such, you generally end up with a lighter dish that can handle wines with slightly lower acidity.

There’s really no general rule that is applicable to baked chicken dishes, other than the four tenets of wine pairing:

1. Match the intensity of flavors of your wine and recipe.

2. Be aware of complementary (lemony wines with lemony marinades) and contrasting (sweet wines with sour dishes) elements that make a wine pairing successful.

3. Keep tannic wines away from spicy dishes, the result tends to be bitterness.

4. When in doubt, pair a recipe with a wine from the region that inspired it.

Roast chicken and wine

Roasted chicken is a classic dish that generally follows a pretty standard recipe, with regional seasonings including everything from lemon and garlic to lavender being mixed and matched. The flavors tend to be subtle as to not overpower the flavors of the chicken.

With dishes like this, the best approach to food and wine pairing is to find a flavor bridge that offers complementary pairing. For example, the lemon often left in the cavity of a roasting chicken tends to impart a light acidic flavor to the bird. A wine with lemony fruit like a nice, fresh Chardonnay can be the perfect complement to this style of chicken. Add in more herbs and spice, and the classic pairing is Beaujolais, in which crunchy red fruit is paired with herbal accents.

Fried chicken and wine

Fried chicken, whether deep fat fried or sauteed, generally refers to breaded or battered chicken that is served without much sauce or seasoning beyond those found in the batter. The typical fried chicken dish has some subtle herb and spice notes accenting the flavor of the chicken, all wrapped in a slightly greasy breading.

The greasy element of most fried chicken calls for a wine with substantial acidity. That acidity will help to cleanse the mouth by washing the grease away. A relatively lightly flavored wine that matches the intensity of flavor of the fried chicken is a safe bet. Try dry Riesling and Pinot Grigio, both are good wines to pair with fried chicken.

(Source: SNOOTH)