Of all the wonderful preparations we’ve devised for the chicken, whether humble or refined, fried chicken may be the best. That combination of tender meat, crunch, fat, salt and seasonings is simply awesome. Lucky for us, there’s a way to make it even better – pair it with wine! You will often hear and read that traditional, southern fried chicken is amazing with brut Champagne and other dry sparklers, and that is absolutely true. The zesty acidity and tingly bubbles will cut through the salty fattiness of fried chicken in a way that brilliantly highlights both sides of the pairing. Bite, sip, repeat is a recipe for sheer gustatory joy.
With other types of fried chicken, and there are many, you should consider other bubbly options. Is your bird prepared with more spice, as in Buffalo wings, Nashville style hot chicken or Korean double-fried? Reach for bubbles that carry a touch of sweetness. Check the label for terms like extra-dry or dry (also called sec). Keep in mind that extra-dry is sweeter than brut, and dry is sweeter still (yes, that nomenclature can be confusing, but that’s a post for another day). Other fine examples include Prosecco, off-dry versions of German Sekt and many rosé sparklers. Red versions like Lambrusco and sparkling Shiraz will also work. For more delicate options like Japanese tempura-style chicken, a light, crisp Cremant de Bourgogne or a brut Cava will be perfect.
If you’d rather stay away from carbonation, you’re still covered. Crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and Albarin͂o match up well with traditional fried chicken. For those spicier styles, once again go with a touch of sweetness for balance. Off-dry Riesling will take care of lighter versions, Vouvray for somewhat heartier preparations. For fried chicken that is both spicy and robust, there’s nothing wrong with pouring a Zinfandel, Shiraz or Grenache. That wouldn’t be my choice on a hot summer day, but if it’s got to be red wine, those will get the job done. Whatever your choice, fried chicken and wine can be a match made in heaven.