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Wine & Poultry Pairings

Pairing wine and poultry is easier said than done. That whole white meat, white wine rule goes totally out the window when it comes to our favorite birds. In fact, when pairing wine with poultry, there are several external factors that must be taken into consideration to ensure your pairing doesn't fly south for the winter. Simply put, it ain't just about the the bird-- though we promise, it's not as scary as it sounds. Follow these simple steps below and you'll be poultry pairing with ease in no time.


Type of Poultry

While this isn't the be all, end all rule, it's a good place to start. Lighter styles of poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and quail, have more flexibility with wine pairing and can go with whites or light reds. Since rosés can range from light to medium body, with a generally bright acidity and fruit-forwardness, they're usually a safe bet for pairing with light poultry as well. On the other hand, darker poultry, such as duck, pheasant, and goose, will benefit from a darker, light to medium bodied red wine.


Sauce and Seasoning
 
When it comes to pairing wine with poultry, the sauce and seasonings that surround your bird are definitely more important than the actual meat itself. With an abundance of flavorful dressing options out there, we've created a quick cheat sheet for all of the usual suspects: Sauce:

Lemon-Based Sauce - For lemon-based sauces, you'll want a zippy, high-acid white to complement the tangy citrus flavors; Txakoli and Albarino both make heavenly pairings.

Cream sauce - For a rich, mouth-coating cream sauce, you'll need a wine that can stand up to the sauce's velvety texture. An oakier Chardonnay from California or Rhone Valley Viognier are some of our favorites.

Marsala/Mushroom sauce - Savory, mushroom-based sauces call for an equally earthy wine. Look to Burgundian Pinot Noir or medium-bodied Old World reds (hello, Nebbiolo!) for a seriously mouthwatering situation.

Teriyaki sauce - Complement the sweetness in Teriyaki sauce with a semi-sweet Gewurztraminer from Alsace; the lychee, rose petal flavors and oily mouthfeel will make the sauce shine.

Sweet & Sour sauce - For this sweet and tangy sauce, you'll need a wine high in both sugar and acidity. An off-dry Riesling from Germany has all you need!

Seasoning

  • Rosemary - This powerfully pungent spice's flavors come alive when paired with a high-acid, Old World Sauvignon Blanc, especially from the Loire Valley. For a red option, try a lighter-bodied Carignan, or juicy Zinfandel.

  • Curry/Cumin - Always remember: heat loves sweet! Tame the flame of your favorite hot spices with an off-dry Riesling or off-dry Chenin Blanc. The sugar and flame combination keeps both parties in check.

  • Garlic - Pair garlic-sprinkled poultry popped with a peppery, high-acid Austrian Gruner Veltliner. The slightly herbaceous, white pepper flavors will bring the fennel to a whole 'nother level.

  • Fennel - For poultry popped with fennel, look no further than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The wine's herbaceous, green notes complement the spice gorgeously. For a striking, lemon-like contrast, grab a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc's answer to lip-stinging (that's actually what Picpoul means in local dialect!) gratification.

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    Style

    Check out the advice below for pairing wine with some of the most popular ways to prepare your poultry:

    Fried - While this may sound nuts, nothing is quite as delicious as fried chicken and Champagne! That's right, the saltiness of the crispy goodness, coupled with the striking acidity of a yeasty Champagne is to die for.

    Roasted - Roasted poultry tends to be more savory and textured, needing a wine of equal complexity to get on its level. Pairing gets a little flexible here; white or red can work equally well. Fuller-bodied Chardonnays or Marsanne work great, as well as lighter-bodied, slightly chilled reds, such as Schiava or Cru Beaujolais.

    Barbecued - Generally speaking, barbecued meats tend to marinate in some sort of sauce prior to being slow cooked. For tangy, sweeter sauces, a New World Pinot Noir or medium-bodied jammy Shiraz are delicious options. For smokier, season-based marinades, opt for a Northern Rhone Syrah or Sardinian Cannonau (AKA, Grenache!) to really emphasize the meat's smokey goodness.

    Grilled - Pairing wine with grilled poultry is going to heavily depend on spices and sauces used (see pairings above!) For a general pairing, we personally think you can never go wrong with a slightly chilled Loire Valley Cabernet Franc; the wine's earthy, peppery notes bring out the best the grill has to offer.

    Salad - For cold poultry used atop green salads, we tend to stick with easy-drinking Pinot Grigios and Chenin Blancs to keep it simple. For poultry used to make creamy, mayo-based salads, think Chicken Salad spreads and dips, stick with unoaked (or lightly unoaked) Chardonnay.