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We’re kicking off our weekly “What Wine Goes With…” theme with what appears to be a rather simple food to pair wine with: chicken. Now, just to let you all know, these weekly beauties will not always focus on the elemental foods (chicken, rice, cheese, etc.) but will also focus on more specific dishes.
Chicken seems deceptively simple to pair with wine. Most people who enjoy wine with food follow this standard rule:
- Red/Dark Foods = Red Wine
- White/Lighter Foods = White Wine
Chicken, while being categorized as a “white food,” is actually quite a chameleon within culinary circles. Think about it. When was the last time you ate chicken that was baked, fried, steamed, etc. with nothing done to it? You just don’t. It’s bland and tastes like…well, chicken. When it comes to dressing up chicken, you basically want to pair the wine along with what you are doing to the chicken. Stick with that rule and you’re pretty much home free.
We’re going to show you how to pair wines with some common methods of dressing up chicken along with a ridiculously delicious recipe for chicken wrapped in Parma ham from Angela Das.
1. Just Chicken
This one is pretty easy, but it still depends on your tastes and methods:
- Steamed or Baked (with or without herbs) = Buttery Chardonnay. Look for oak-aged Chardonnays as they will provide the most buttery silkiness that will add some oomph to a plain piece of chicken. Try the Tolosa Chardonnay.
- Fried or Sauteed = Crisper whites like Sauvignon Blanc or even a Pinot Grigio. You want the acid that these bring to cut through the oil required to fry or saute chicken. Try the Planeta Bianco or Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc.
- BBQd = Thick reds. Because of the char you will have on the surface of the chicken (not to mention if you use BBQ sauce), you need to switch gears over to some hearty reds. Whites are just to wussy for BBQ. Try the Marasso Malbec or Hahn Central Coast Syrah.
- Roasted = Tough one. This is where your own palate and preference comes into play. While the obvious answer seems to be whites, roasting a chicken gives it a richer flavor because you generally are using some kind of oil and herb mix. If you are leaning towards the white realm, try the Tolosa No-Oak Chardonnay. If you’re heading for red country, pretend it’s a roasted turkey, which pair great with Rosenblum Zinfandel.
2. Chicken with a White Sauce
Again, follow the simple rule of pairing the wine with whatever it is you’re doing with the chicken:
- Cheesy sauces = Crisp, acidic whites. No buttery Chardonnays or vanilla Viogniers. Don’t match fat with fat. You want the sour fruits and tart acid to cut through that cheese so that the fruit of the wine blends along with it. That’s why fruit and cheese go so well together. Cheesy sauces can mean everything from Alfredos to fondue-type sauces. Try the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc or the Man Vintners Chenin Blanc.
- Bechamel or creamy, non-cheese sauces = Same rule applies as the cheesy ones, but pay attention to how you’re flavoring the sauce. If you’ve got a lot of cloves in there, you may want to try the Zynthesis Zinfandel.
- Buttery/French Sauces = Crisp whites, again. One thing we have noticed is how well quite a few Rieslings are with buttery sauces. We have tried some Rieslings with lemon caper butter sauce chicken and it worked great. Try to stay away from the overtly sweet ones, though. Go for dry.Try the Leitz Out Riesling or the Dr. Loosen Riesling.
- Just Oil = The “Fried or Sauteed” guidelines above.
3. Chicken with a Red Sauce
Are you detecting a pattern here? Whether it’s tomato sauce, a red pepper glaze, BBQ Sauce, or any type of chicken stew, odds are you’re going to want to go for the fruity reds. Since most red sauces are made from vegetables that contain good acid, try going for the Syrahs, Malbecs or Petite Sirahs.
Angela’s Baked Chicken and Parma Ham
This is a fantastic chicken recipe that dresses up boring baked chicken with loads of flavor. It is also a great example of how chicken can be both a white and red wine type of food. For example, this dish could either be paired with a crisp Viognier to balance the ham and match the chicken, or a Pinot Noir to match the spicy pesto and sun dried tomato.
Hit us up with any questions or suggestions in the Comments section below.
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