While pairing wine with chicken, the simple rule is to pair it with the sauce and ingredients used in its preparation, rather than with the chicken.
The general wine-pairing rule is to pair white wine with white meat, and red wine with red meat. However, this is no hard-and-fast rule. White wine is milder and doesn't overpower white meat, which is why it is chosen. Chicken is a versatile meat that takes on the flavors of the seasonings, herbs, and sauces used in its preparation. It's a wine-friendly meat and can be paired with a variety of wines.
Since chicken can be prepared in various different ways, there's no single answer to which wine is the best. The type of sauce (tomato/herb/cream-based sauce) and flavorings used to prepare the chicken will determine the kind of wine it's to be paired with. Then again, personal taste preference will also have to be taken into account. Let's take a look at some common chicken preparations and the best wines to complement them.
Best Wines for Roast Chicken
"It needs only a good bottle of wine for a roast chicken to be transformed into a banquet." - Gerald Asher, The Pleasures of Wine. Roasted chicken pairs wonderfully with full-bodied red, a fruity rose, or a dry white wine. You need a wine that will complement the roast marinade, and not overpower it.
Its creamy, smooth texture, and lovely freshness make it the perfect candidate to have with butter-roasted chicken. It's best to stick to the unoaked or lightly oaked versions of Chardonnay because the oaked version can be too overpowering. You can blindly pair an unoaked Chardonnay with roast chicken.
There are exceptions to the rule; red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. Pinot Noir is one such exception. This light red wine is a classic match because it's not heavy, and unlike a Cabernet Sauvignon, doesn't have high tannic content. Its acidity and earthy flavor complements the flavors of a roasted chicken very well.
This apricot and peach-scented white wine pairs well with roasts stuffed with mildly spicy stuffing. Viognier is also a perfect choice if your chicken has been butter-roasted with lemon and a herb.
The citrus overtones of this wine will complement almost any marinade used on the roasted chicken. Moreover, the sweetness of this wine makes it the perfect wine to complement a spiced chicken roast.
Best Wines for Grilled Chicken
Grilling chars the meat and adds a certain smoky flavor to it. For such chicken preparations, mild white wines will seem very bland. You need something stronger and acidic to match their flavor.
Oaked Chardonnay is perfect for grilled chicken, because its strong oak flavor cuts down the bitterness from the charred, smoked meat.
This mild red wine goes well with grilled chicken as well. Since this wine is not very mild or very strong, it complements the smoked flavor of grilled chicken, without overwhelming the flavors of the dish. It also goes well with herb-coated grilled chicken. However, if the grilled chicken is spiced, it's best not to use this wine.
This fruity red wine is also a great option for grilled chicken, because its spicy, acidic character balances the smokey flavors well. High in alcohol content, this wine also goes well with barbecued chicken.
This high acid wine pairs well with chicken grilled in a fresh, herb sauce. Its herbaceous character helps complement sauces and marinades with herbs. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with lemon and thyme grilled chicken.
Best Wines for Spicy Chicken Dishes
Pairing wine with spicy dishes can be a challenging task. Spicy sauces and marinades require wines with higher tannic content to cut down the spice. The wine shouldn't be overshadowed by the spice in the dish. Moreover, the wine chosen should be of lower alcoholic content, because the more the alcoholic content, the more burning sensation your palate will experience. Thus, stick to the light-bodied, sweeter wines.
This off-dry white wine has a light sweetness to it, and its low alcoholic content cuts down the heat from the dish. It pairs well with dishes, like spicy chicken wings, barbecued chicken, etc. If you're preparing an Asian dish like sweet and sour chicken, then again Riesling is perfect. The bell peppers and onions in the dish will bring out the fruitiness of the wine even further.
This fruity wine is a perfect accompaniment for spicy chicken dishes. It doesn't compete with the dish, instead brings out all the flavors of the dish. Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for spicy Mexican and Southwestern dishes. This is because its herbaceous character blends well with the lime and cilantro in Mexican dishes.
This refreshing, aromatic white wine has a rich, sweet, and spicy overtone to it, and pairs well with spicy chicken dishes, like hot chicken drumsticks, etc. Pinot Gris also goes well with Thai green chicken curries, Indian gravies, etc. Its slightly sweet opulence and freshness complement the spiciness of the dishes.
This food-friendly wine pairs well with Asian dishes that contain soy sauce and chilies. Its fruity, acidic, and spicy flavors combine very well with the warm, spicy, saucy flavor of Indian, Thai, and Chinese dishes. Moreover, its sweetness also pairs well with the spiciness of barbecued chicken and spicy chicken wings.
If you happen to cook the chicken with a type of wine, it's best to serve the dish with the same wine. Pairing wine with a particular chicken preparation is all about balancing the flavors of the dish with the flavors of the wine. Pair the dishes and wines according to your taste preference.