If there's one food entree that spans the globe, turning up in virtually every culture on Earth, it's the lowly chicken. From the Near East to the Far East and throughout North and South America, across Africa and Europe and just about anywhere, there's a chicken in every pot - whether it is a clay tandoori, a wok or a pricey All-Clad skillet.
So, the question of which wine goes with chicken depends on two main factors; the method of preparation and the sauce or spices.
Both wine and food have body, which is the same as weight or richness. Wine is often described as being light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. Components that add body to wine include; sugar, alcohol and tannins. In addition, intense aromatics increase the perception of body whereas, acidity decrease this perception.
Similarly, a dish can be described as light or rich. Poached chicken calls for the lightest, most delicate flavored white wine such as an Italian Pinot Grigio, Oregon Pinot Gris, Alsatian Riesling or a New World Sauvignon Blanc. These wines range in flavor from citric or herbal to floral and fruity. Roast chicken can stand up to a more concentrated wines like white Riojas, white Bordeaux or Chardonnay.
Grilling, smoking or frying will add to the perception of weight. Fire up your grill and open a bottle of Viognier or Pinot Noir to enjoy with your chicken. And if you have picked up a bucket or have the recipe for the best Southern fried, pop the cork on a Spanish cava or Italian prosecco. The bubbles will cut through the fat for a mind blowing combination.
Spices and sauces are the second factor to consider when choosing a wine pairing. Take the tandoori chicken. Curried dishes either require very bold reds like a Syrah or Shiraz to stand up to the complex spices or a fruity, low acid white like a Chenin Blanc or a spicy Fume Blanc.
The most successful combinations are fruit-driven wines of moderate acidity. Beaujolais is an excellent match for the tandoori chicken, accentuating the smoky-char flavors of the dish. Other fruity wines, such as Gewürztraminer, provide enough fruit to cushion the spice in the dishes. These wines offered dimension and balance with Latin, Asian, Thai cuisine.
In the "Secrets from the Wine Diva: Tips on Buying, Ordering & Enjoying Wine" by Christine Ansbacher she uses an acronym for wine and food pairings.
C: cooking method
U: umami (the word for “yummy” in Japanese, identified as the fifth taste bud sensation)
F: fat in the meat
F: fatty ingredients in the preparation
S: spicy, salty or smoky components (avoid tannic wines)
Don't be chicken. Roll up your White Cuffs and reach for the wine list.