What the hell wine do you drink with chicken? Chef’s suggest

on 29/03/14 at 1:48 pm


chicken_wineA search for the perfect wine to drink with the bird that is considered to go well with pretty much anything.

OYSTERS ARE commonly served with Champagne and lamb is considered a match for Bordeaux, but with chicken it seems that anything goes. Chicken is not only the most commonly suggested food pairing on the back label of a wine bottle, but quite possibly the world’s most ubiquitous and least respected main dish.

Maybe it’s because chicken is both cheap and incredibly neutral—it’s readily transformed with just one active verb. It can be baked or roasted, fried or creamed, hashed or casseroled. Whatever the incarnation, it’s still considered the fowl that’s good with all wines—a presumed versatility that borders on disregard.

Yet there are chefs who have become famous thanks to the bird. The late Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café in San Francisco was legendary for her roast chicken. Ditto chef Christian Delouvrier, formerly of four-star Lespinasse and now of La Mangeoire in New York. The name of Jonathan Waxman’s beloved roast chicken at Barbuto in New York bears the chef’s initials. Clearly, these chefs consider chicken worthy of showcasing, but do they also believe it deserves a wine of its own?

Barbuto’s J.W. Roast Chicken, a simple preparation enhanced by a bit of lemon, salsa verde and lots of crispy potatoes, is one of the restaurant’s most requested dishes, according to manager Michael Kelly. When I recently visited Barbuto, I asked Mr. Kelly what Mr. Waxman’s wine of choice with his chicken was. “Jonathan loves Arneis,” Mr. Kelly said, referring to a white grape grown in Piedmont, Italy. “There are three Arneis on the list.”

I was a bit surprised by his answer. A fairly light-bodied, high-acid white didn’t seem like a natural fit. When I consider a wine for my chicken, I think of something juicy and maybe a little bit rich.