The Best Wine to Pair with Chicken

chicken paired with wine diagram

Chicken is a favorite protein known for its versatility. It pairs with so many different seasonings, side dishes, and accompaniments. It’s economical and a flexible protein to pair with wine. 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 rosé, or a dry white. How do you make the best match? Here’s our tips for the perfect poultry pairing.

The basic principle is that you don’t want to overpower the meat, or the dish; a wine with a luscious fruit component and decent acidity could match up well with a richer dish, but too much tannic structure risks masking the flavors.

Chicken Paired with White Wine

Champagne and Fried Chicken

Pro Tip #1: This salty, juicy, crispy chicken calls for a wine that’s equally simple, with a good balance of acidity and sweetness. The acidity and effervescence of Champagne cuts through the richness of the fried coating. Choose champagne with zesty, citrus notes, and it will elevate your chicken with a delectable complexity.

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Chardonnay and Creamy Chicken Dishes

Pro Tip #2: Chardonnay is known for its buttery-smooth taste. It envelops your mouth in creaminess while still maintaining a rich citrus tone. Given Chardonnay’s velvety mouthfeel, there’s no dish that pairs quite as heavenly as creamy, rich chicken dishes like fettuccini alfredo or chicken pot pie.

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Sauvignon Blanc and Lemon/Garlic/Herbaceous Chicken

Pro Tip #3: The citrus overtones of Sauvignon Blanc will energize the lemony take on chicken dishes with lemon, garlic or herbs. Sauvignon Blanc is light enough not to overpower a delicate herbal rub on chicken, and its crisp finish will keep your chicken tasting fresh.

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Spicy Chicken Dishes 

Pro Tip #4: Heat likes sweet. Aromatic white wines like medium-dry Riesling and Pinot Gris as well as fruity rosés complement spicy chicken dishes.

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Dry White Wine Paired Artichokes or Asparagus

Pro Tip #5: Sometimes wine can taste oddly sweet and one-dimensional when paired with dishes containing artichokes or asparagus. A compound in artichokes called cynarin purportedly binds to sweet receptors on the tongue, temporarily shutting them off. As you sip your wine, the cynarin is pulled off of the receptor, reactivating it. At that moment, your tongue registers sweetness, and your wine tastes sweeter than it normally would. Not everyone experiences the phenomenon, but about 60 percent of people do.

Like artichokes, asparagus is notoriously seen as difficult to match. A high level of chlorophyll gives asparagus its fresh green flavor but, working alongside other acidic compounds, it can make wines taste metallic or harsh. To compensate, we recommend serving artichokes and asparagus with dry, white wines that are highly acidic and contain little to no residual sugar, such as Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner  or Albariño.

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Chicken Paired with Red or White Wine

Roasted Chicken

Pro Tip #6: Few meals are more comforting than a simple roasted chicken. Select a wine that is equally simple to avoid overwhelming the food. A simple roasted chicken, for example, pairs equally well with a full-flavored red, a medium-bodied rosé, or a dry white. Also, an oaked Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir will be great. If you have a dark, savory gravy, go for a medium-bodied red like a Côtes du Rhône.

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Chicken Paired with Red or Rosé

Chicken with Savory/Earthy Flavors

Pro Tip #7: When is a red wine the best choice to pair with chicken? When you use earthy ingredients like mushrooms, root vegetables, tomato sauce or red wine sauce in the preparation.

  • With tomato and pepper-based sauces—try a medium-bodied French or Spanish red or even a Merlot.
  • Chicken with a barbecue sauce—can take a more full-bodied red with a touch of sweetness like a Shiraz, Grenache or Zinfandel(Not too big or oaky though).
  • Chicken coq au vin —Cooked in dry Burgundy wine and the rich flavors of shallots, garlic, and mushrooms, this chicken dish comes alive with Merlot. Merlot has fewer bitter tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and its bold, spicy taste will bring out the savory complexity of coq au vin. The black cherry overtones of Merlot bring out the tanginess of the garlic and its middle-body doesn’t overpower the subtle taste of fresh thyme and carrots.
  • Medium-bodied rosés—a hugely versatile style, will stand up to big flavors such as anchovy, olives, garlic, saffron and pimenton.

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When a food and wine pairing creates a harmonious balance, then you’ve chosen the right wine. Experiment and have fun!

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