Tips for Pairing Wine with Chicken
Here are some tips on pairing wine with chicken.
Red or White?
One of the basic rules of wine pairing is that you should pair like qualities together. The easiest to remember is that red wine should go with red meat and white wine should go with white meat, including chicken. White wines generally have a lighter, less powerful flavor which keeps them from overpowering the delicately complex taste of the chicken.
When to Break the White Wine / White Meat Rule
However, there are good reasons why you might want to serve a red wine with your chicken. For example, if you are serving chicken Parmesan in a zesty tomato sauce, the rich flavors and spices of your sauce might not match a white wine well. A hearty Italian red might be more appropriate. In this case, matching the region (Italian wine with Italian cooking) will be a more successful way to match your wine.
Similarly, if you are serving a spicy sauce or an especially flavorful grilled or blackened chicken, try a red with rich, fruity flavors like a merlot. Strong, fruity reds also taste great with barbecued chicken.
Which Whites to Pair with Chicken
Even narrowing your options down to white wines, you still have plenty of different choices to make. There is no one white wine that will be the perfect match to all of your chicken dishes. Instead, you'll need to consider the final flavor of the dish and then choose a wine that will complement it.
Here are the five major varieties of white wine, and their flavor characteristics, to give you an idea of how each can be paired with chicken:
Chardonnay - Chardonnay is the most popular of white wines because of its smooth, rich flavor. It tends to be reminiscent of butter, vanilla, and fruit, which makes it a good choice to go with many creamy chicken sauces.
Sauvignon Blanc - Sauvignon Blanc was originally developed in France, and tends to have a medium body and herb overtones. It works well with chicken dishes that use a lot of green spices like rosemary or thyme, or with citrus dishes.
Pinot Blanc - Pinot Blanc wines tend to be dry and light with a fruity flavor. They are excellent for balancing and softening acidic dishes like lemon chicken or dishes with a lot of salt in them.
Riesling - Riesling is a German wine that most people think of as being very sweet. However, there are also dry versions that match nearly any dish, making it a good choice if you can't decide which wine to choose. Riesling goes well with spicy chicken dishes as well as more mild flavors.
Gewurtztraminer - Gewurtztraminier gets its name from the German word, "gewurtz" which means spice. The name is fitting, because this is a very flavorful wine which pairs well with spicy chicken dishes like chicken wings and barbecue.
Remember that wines can vary in flavor, even within the same varietals, depending on where and when the grapes were harvested, the wine's age, and the composition of the casks used to store the wines. In general, young dry wines tend to be the best choices when pairing wine to chicken.
Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Wine?
Sometimes, it's easier to pair your food and your wine if you start with a good wine and design your chicken dish to match. Why? It's easy to change your spice blend to fit the exact flavors of your wine, but there is little that you can do to change how your wine tastes. Building your menu around your wine allows you to tweak your meal's flavors to come up with the perfect combination.
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