Best Wines to Drink with Chicken

Everyday Food, April 2007

Satisfy your thirst to know the best pour for the poultry on your plate. Read on for some background -- and some suggestions, too.

Abundance of Riches
One reason for chicken's popularity is that it tastes good with so many different foods. Another is that it's flexible with wine. Unlike steak, which seems to demand a robust red, or fish, which wants a crisp white, chicken is a lot less fussy. Maybe that's because the bird itself is a bit of a hybrid, part lean white meat, part rich dark meat. A simple roasted chicken, for example, pairs equally well with a full-flavored red, a fruity rose, or a dry white. How, then, do you make the best match? One piece of advice: Look beyond the chicken itself -- we'll explain.

Homing In
Consider the ingredients that are accompanying the chicken. If one of the sides is a spring vegetable, such as peas, try a white with a similar "green" taste (Sancerre) or a prune-like red (Chianti). Chicken served with earthy fare, such as mushrooms, would partner well with a woodsy Merlot or California Chardonnay. You can also pair regional cuisines with regional wines -- if you're cooking Mediterranean, look for a bottle from Greece or Spain. For Italian: Offset creamy sauces with a lean-tasting Pinot Grigio, and acidic tomato sauces with Sangiovese.

The Big and the Bold
If the flavors of your chicken recipe are pronounced, let them be your guide. A fiery dish? Choose a wine that's refreshing but not overpowering. For whites, that includes mildly fruity Gewurztraminer and citrusy Riesling. If you prefer red, try a jammy Pinot Noir or a slightly chilled Beaujolais; they're sweet enough to offset the spice (and would also be good picks for the backyard grill, since their sweetness will match the caramelized flavor of the food). California Zinfandel and some Sauvignon Blancs (especially from New Zealand) are also intense enough for smoky barbecue sauces and rubs; they stand up to warm spices such as cumin and paprika, as well.

Picks for Our Top 5 Chicken Recipes:
Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon, and Asparagus: Sancerre, Bordeaux
Greek Chicken Cutlets: Malbec, Greek White
Chicken Tetrazzini: Pinot Grigio, Chianti
Asian Chicken Soup: Riesling
Barbecued Chicken on Garlic Toast: Beaujolais, Rose

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