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What Wine Goes with Chicken?
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed October 17, 2001. For more information go to

Roast it, fry it, broil it or boil it, chicken is one dish that goes well with a broad variety of wines, while demolishing the old theory that limits red wines to red meat and white wines to white meat.

Although pallid preparations and delicate sauces might strongly suggest a white - most reds would overpower poached chicken breasts napped with bechamel, for instance - I find that roast, grilled or broiled chicken in particular, with its golden-brown, crispy skin, makes as good a match for reds as lamb or beef. Ditto for Southern Italian-style red-sauced preparations or even a bucket of the Colonel's finest.

Quality whites with some body and richness - Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris/Grigio for starters - will generally form good partnerships with any chicken dish, and they're the best choice with the lighter and more delicate preparations. But when you're in the mood for a red, try a light and fruity item like a Beaujolais with fried chicken (or enjoy it with an exuberantly berrylike Zinfandel). Match a Chianti or other tart-and-fruity Italian red with chicken Parmigiana or cacciatore. And bring out your good Cabernets, Merlots or Bordeaux blends and other complex Old World- style reds when a roast chicken is on your table, particularly when you've added herbs and garlic to give it flavor.

With an autumnal chill in the air the other day, we warmed up the house by firing up the oven and popping in a smallish "butterflied" chicken (split down the back and flattened) with lots of fresh sage and garlic slipped under the breast skin, letting it roast for an hour at high temperature (450F/230C), basting occasionally, until it was crisp and golden brown. It made a delicious autumn dinner with one of my favorite country-French reds, a Mourvedre-based Bandol.


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