Make your next poultry dinner even more delicious by pairing it with the right type of vino.

By Emily Goldman
Updated July 14, 2020
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Laughing friends having dinner with wine
Credit: Getty / Ridofranz

Chicken is a favorite for a reason: The protein tastes good with so many different seasonings, side dishes, and accompaniments. Another source of its popularity 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 meat 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 rosé, or a dry white. How, then, do you make the best match? Our wine experts share their top tips for the perfect poultry pairing.

Chicken Dishes with an Earthy, Savory Taste

Who doesn't love sautéed chicken with a side of greens? It's a mealtime staple and finds its way onto many a dinner table. The juicy, perfectly cooked meat goes well with the earthy, sharp taste of spinach or asparagus. Mia Van der Water, master sommelier, suggests pairing chicken and vegetable dishes like Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon, and Asparagus with Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($17.99, wine.com). "Grüner Veltliner is one of my go-to varieties for dishes that are savory and/or vegetable-forward because rather than leading with fruit in the glass, it speaks instead of white pepper, spicy arugula, breakfast radishes, and other fresh, spring-like aromas," she says. "It is perfect for literally any entrée salad, or dishes featuring hard-to-pair vegetables like asparagus."

Of course, white wines aren't the only variety of wine that goes well with chicken. The summertime favorite pink drink, rosé, pairs quite well with a savory meal featuring the bird. "The most famous rosés in the world come from France, but that country is not the be-all, end-all for rosé!" she says. "Italian rosés often have incredible structure and minerality." Proprietà Sperino Rosa del Rosa 2019 ($20.99, dandm.com) is one of her favorites, based on the Nebbiolo grape from the northernmost part of Piedmont in Italy. "It features pretty, tart red berries along with fresh fines herbs and a stony, mineral core that makes it addictively refreshing," she says.

Another earthy chicken accompaniment is morel mushrooms. Christine Collado, general manager of Parcelle Wine and former wine director of Michelin-starred Brooklyn Fare, recommends R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo Crianza 2011 ($28.99, wine.com). "Wines from Spain, especially from Rioja, are usually crowd-pleasers," she says. "This Rioja is rustic with a touch of oak. This works well with anything savory, like a chicken with morel mushrooms."

Creamy, Rich-Flavored Chicken

Chicken casseroles, like our Chicken Tettrazini reign supreme for delectable dinners. Champagne doesn't need to be for special occasions—after all there's always something to celebrate. Collado suggests breaking open a bottle of Grongnet Blanc de Blancs Brut ($48, parcellewine.com) as a pairing for a creamy chicken dish. "Champagne isn't just for celebrations and it's great with more than just canapés," she says. "Rich but dry styles like this one cut through richer dishes, making a heavier meal like chicken pot pie seem light." Another option is a white Burgundy, like Olivier Merlin La Roche Vineuse Mâcon 2017 ($18, winecellerage.com). "Wines from Burgundy have classically paired well with any white meat, especially roast chicken," says Collado. "This chardonnay has enough body and texture to stand-up to creamy sauces and earthier sides."

"Very few red wines have the suppleness and creaminess of texture to pair well with creamy dishes, but Zinfandel is one," explains Van der Water. She encourages everyone to try Storybook Mountain Eastern Exposures Zinfandel ($52.99, wine.com). "This Zinfandel is perhaps the most…beautiful example on the market: delicately perfumed, red-fruited, supple, and succulent. If you wish to drink red wine with a cream-based dish, this is one of the best ways to go."

Sweet Style Sauces and Preparations

While sweet dishes and chicken might not be at the forefront of your mind, favorite combinations like Barbecued Chicken, Chicken and Waffles, and Eastern favorites like Sweet and Sour Chicken land themselves in this category. Van der Water suggests pairing these meals with Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee des Fondraux 2018 ($25.99, wine.com). "Sweeter dishes do best with wines that are bright with acidity and softened by a touch of sweetness in the wine itself, which makes off-dry Chenin Blanc a natural choice," she says. "Champalou's Cuvée des Fondreaux is done in a demi-sec style, where the front of the palate is juicy with golden apples and Asian pears drizzled with honey, but the final impression is of mouthwatering acidity, keeping the wine light on its feet."

A sparkling Gamay is just the thing to pair with chicken you're enjoying alongside subtly sweet side dishes. Van der Water recommends Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorees FRV 100 Sparkling Beaujolais, ($22.99, wine.com). "Jean-Paul Brun is a staunchly traditional winemaker in Beaujolais who makes wines that are evocative and terroir-driven, with deep attention to the health and vigor of his vineyards; no chemical fertilizers or pesticides here!" says Van der Water. "This one tastes of pomegranates and wild strawberries and would be lovely with any dishes featuring red fruit accents or sweet peppers."

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