Chicken is quite a universal meat. It can be grilled, broiled, deep fried, roasted, poached and so on and so forth, which means the opportunities for pairing wine with chicken are almost limitless. Here's a guide by Le Cordon Bleu London's Matthieu Longuère MS.
Pairing Wine with Chicken
10 second guide
Low tannin wines
Rosé, full-bodied whites and even lighter reds
Think about how you’ve cooked the chicken
Try Rosé or Grüner Veltliner white wine with roast chicken, lemon, herbs and garlic
In Europe, one of the most common ways to prepare chicken is to roast the whole bird. A recipe in this fashion is to rub the chicken with lemon, garlic and herbs before seasoning it with salt and Espelette pepper.
For good measure, one can stuff it with more garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme, freeing this stuffing and placing it beside the chicken to cook, 20 minutes before it is ready.
Because of the acidity of the lemon and the pungency of the herbs and garlic, a ripe aromatic white wine or a full flavour rosé would be perfect.
For fun, one can try a fuller reserve style of Austrian Grüner Veltliner such as the Stadt Krems, Reserve Stein that will have enough structure to handle the texture of the meat and a spicyness which plays with the Mediterranean flavours.
To stay true to the Mediterranean touch, a Bandol Rosé such as Laffran-Veyrolles from Provence would also be perfect.
White Burgundy with chicken, black truffle, white Port and cream sauce
During the Intermediate Cuisine Certificate at Le Cordon bleu London our students learn how to insert black truffles slivers under the skin of the chicken before poaching it in stock and serving it with a creamy sauce finished with white port.
This classic recipe, from Lyon in France, works wonders with a mature white wine, especially when the wine starts to take on the aromas of the truffle itself. A great seven year old Meursault or Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru from a good producer should do the trick.
New World Pinot Noir with coq au vin
Another classic dish is Coq au vin where a good quality chicken is marinated and then poached in red wine with bacon, button onions and mushrooms. Originally, the cooking wine used was red burgundy but considering the current price, it might be a better idea to pour it in a glass rather than in the sauce!
The most important feature that a cooking wine needs is low tannins, as too much tannins might make your dish taste bitter once the liquid reduces. If on a budget, Grenache or Garnacha would be my grape of choice.
As a wine for pairing with Coq au vin, a soft, low tannins, red cherry flavoured cool climate New World Pinot Noir would be perfect. The silky texture of the wine should enhance the flavour of the chicken and marry with the aromas of the sauce. A favourite, at the moment is Tabali, Talinay Vineyard Pinot Noir from Coastal Limari in Chile.
Garnacha with skinless chicken
If one is looking after their waistline, preferring to remove the skin and grill the chicken breast instead, a fresh spicy red such as the Navarra Garnacha produced by Zorzal in Spain would fit the bill.
Its ripe and juicy blackberry flavour will toy with the smokiness from the grill. This wine is light enough so as not to overpower the delicate flesh of the chicken breast.
And finally… go free range
Disregarding how the chicken is cooked, one of the most important considerations to have is for the bird to be free range or sustainable. The meat is usually tastier, firmer and tends not to fall apart when it has been slow cooked. It is also a much healthier food than the battery raised, antibiotic fed, mass produced chicken that one should always avoid to eat if they can!
About Matthieu Longuère MS
Sommelier in the UK since 1994, he has won numerous awards and accolades for wine lists in the establishments for which he has worked: Lucknam Park Country House Hotel, Hotel du Vin Bristol and La Trompette.
Since joining Le Cordon Bleu in 2013, he has developed the school’s comprehensive Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management; a unique programme which combines the theory of wine with a strong emphasis on practical learning.
Alongside the full Diploma, he also teaches an array of evening classes which are relaxed, yet studious, making them perfect for beginners as well as the more knowledgeable.
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