Red Wines to Pair with Chicken

Best Red Wines to Pair with Chicken

Introduction to Pairing Wine with Chicken

Chicken is a versatile and widely loved protein, perfect for pairing with a variety of wines. However, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right red wine to enhance your meal.

In this article, we’ll explore the best red wines to pair with chicken dishes and provide expert tips for a memorable dining experience.

Factors to Consider for the Perfect Pairing

Best Red Wines to Pair with Chicken

Types of Chicken Dish

When selecting the ideal red wine to pair with your chicken dish, it’s crucial to consider the dish’s characteristics, such as its flavors, ingredients, and cooking method.

Here are a few examples of how different types of chicken dishes can influence your wine choice:

  1. Grilled or Roasted Chicken: A simple grilled or roasted chicken, seasoned with herbs and spices, pairs well with light to medium-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir or Grenache. These wines’ fruity and earthy notes complement the dish’s natural flavors without overpowering them.
  2. Chicken in Creamy Sauces: Chicken dishes with creamy sauces, such as a chicken Alfredo or a chicken and mushroom sauce, benefit from wines with good acidity, like a Pinot Noir, to cut through the richness and create balance.
  3. Spicy Chicken Dishes: If your chicken dish is spicy, such as a chicken curry or a spicy chicken stir-fry, opt for a fruity, low-tannin red wine like Grenache or Zinfandel. These wines can help temper the heat and complement the dish’s bold flavors.
  4. Smoky or Barbecued Chicken: Smoky and barbecued chicken dishes work well with medium to full-bodied red wines that have a hint of smokiness or earthiness, like Tempranillo or a bold Merlot. These wines can enhance the dish’s grilled flavors and create a harmonious pairing.
  5. Chicken with Fruit Glazes or Chutneys: If your chicken dish includes a fruit glaze or chutney, such as a mango chutney or a cherry glaze, look for a red wine with fruity notes that can complement the sweetness, like a Merlot or a fruit-forward Pinot Noir.

Wine Body

The body of a wine refers to its overall weight, texture, and mouthfeel when you taste it. Wine body is influenced by factors such as grape variety, alcohol content, tannin levels, and the winemaking process.

There are three main categories of wine body: light, medium, and full. Understanding the body of a wine and how it relates to your chicken dish is crucial for creating a successful pairing.

  1. Light-Bodied Wines: Light-bodied red wines, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, have a delicate mouthfeel and tend to be lower in tannins and alcohol content. These wines pair well with lighter chicken dishes, such as a simple roast or grilled chicken, where the wine’s fruity flavors and subtle nuances can complement the dish without overpowering it.
  2. Medium-Bodied Wines: Medium-bodied red wines, like Merlot, Grenache, or Sangiovese, offer a balance between light and full-bodied wines. They have a more substantial mouthfeel than light-bodied wines but are not as heavy or rich as full-bodied wines. Medium-bodied wines work well with a variety of chicken dishes, from those with tomato-based sauces to dishes with slightly richer or more complex flavors.
  3. Full-Bodied Wines: Full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, or Syrah, have a rich, robust mouthfeel and tend to be higher in tannins and alcohol content. These wines are best suited for pairing with bold, flavorful chicken dishes that can stand up to the wine’s intensity, like a chicken in a rich red wine reduction or a spicy chicken dish with robust flavors.

Flavor Profile

Understanding the flavor profile of both the chicken dish and the red wine is essential for creating a successful pairing.

Flavor profiles can be complex and multifaceted, encompassing a wide range of tastes, aromas, and textures.

When pairing wine and chicken, consider the following aspects of their flavor profiles:

  1. Fruitiness: Fruit flavors are a common characteristic of many red wines. These fruity notes can either complement or contrast with the flavors in a chicken dish. For instance, a fruit-forward Pinot Noir can enhance the sweetness of a chicken dish with a fruit glaze, while a fruity Grenache may provide a delightful contrast to a spicy chicken dish.
  2. Acidity: Acidity in wine is essential for balancing and cutting through rich or fatty flavors in food. When pairing red wine with chicken, choose a wine with sufficient acidity to cleanse the palate and provide contrast to the dish. For example, the high acidity of a Pinot Noir can help balance a rich, creamy chicken dish.
  3. Tannins: Tannins are compounds found in red wine that create a drying sensation on the palate. The level of tannins in the wine should be considered when pairing with chicken. High-tannin wines can overpower the delicate flavor of chicken, while low to moderate tannin wines can complement and enhance the dish. For example, a medium-tannin Merlot can be an excellent match for barbecued chicken.
  4. Body: The body of a wine refers to its weight and texture on the palate. Light-bodied wines have a delicate mouthfeel, while full-bodied wines feel more substantial. Pairing a wine’s body with the intensity of the chicken dish creates a harmonious dining experience. For example, a light-bodied Pinot Noir can be a great match for a simple roast chicken, while a full-bodied Tempranillo can stand up to a robust chicken dish with bold flavors.
  5. Aromatics: A wine’s aroma can significantly influence the overall dining experience. Aromatic components, such as floral, herbal, or earthy notes, can either complement or contrast with the chicken dish’s flavors. For example, the earthy undertones of a Tempranillo can enhance a chicken dish with smoky or grilled elements, while the herbal notes of a Pinot Noir can complement a chicken dish seasoned with fresh herbs.

Top Red Wines to Pair with Chicken

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a classic choice for pairing with chicken. It’s a light to medium-bodied red wine, known for its fruity flavors and subtle earthiness.

Classic Chicken Pairings

  • Roast chicken with herbs
  • Chicken in a mushroom sauce
  • Chicken and vegetable stir-fry

Expert Tips

  • Choose a Pinot Noir with a higher acidity to cut through the richness of cream-based sauces.
  • Opt for a fruit-forward Pinot Noir to complement the sweetness in Asian-inspired dishes.


Merlot is a medium-bodied red wine with a smooth, velvety texture. Its flavors of plum, black cherry, and chocolate make it an excellent match for many chicken dishes.

Classic Chicken Pairings

  • Grilled chicken with a balsamic glaze
  • Chicken with a red wine reduction sauce
  • Barbecued chicken

Expert Tips

  • Select a Merlot with moderate tannins to balance the dish’s flavors without overpowering the chicken.
  • Merlot pairs well with dishes that have a touch of sweetness, like barbecue sauce or a fruit-based glaze.


Grenache is a medium-bodied red wine with spicy, berry flavors. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for pairing with a wide range of chicken dishes.

Classic Chicken Pairings

  • Chicken with a tomato and garlic sauce
  • Chicken and chorizo paella
  • Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons

Expert Tips

  • Opt for a Grenache with higher acidity to balance the richness of tomato-based sauces.
  • A Grenache with pronounced fruit flavors complements the spice and complexity of Mediterranean and Moroccan-inspired dishes.


Tempranillo, a medium to full-bodied red wine, originates from Spain and is known for its flavors of cherry, plum, and leather. It’s a perfect match for flavorful, robust chicken dishes.

Classic Chicken Pairings

  • Chicken in a Spanish-style paprika sauce
  • Chicken with a chorizo and red pepper stuffing
  • Chicken and vegetable skewers with a smoky marinade

Expert Tips

  • Seek out a Tempranillo with moderate tannins and balanced acidity to avoid overpowering the dish.
  • Tempranillo’s earthy notes make it a great choice for dishes that incorporate smoked or grilled ingredients.

Final Thoughts

Pairing chicken with the perfect red wine can elevate your meal to new heights. By considering the type of chicken dish, the wine’s body, and the flavor profiles of both, you can create an unforgettable dining experience. Our top recommendations include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache, and Tempranillo, each offering unique and complementary flavors to enhance your chicken dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pair white wine with chicken?

Yes, you can pair white wine with chicken. In fact, many people prefer white wine with lighter chicken dishes. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier are popular choices.

How do I know if a red wine is light, medium, or full-bodied?

You can often find this information on the wine label or by asking a knowledgeable staff member at your local wine shop. If in doubt, search for the specific wine online to find more information.

Can I pair red wine with spicy chicken dishes?

Yes, red wines can work well with spicy chicken dishes. Opt for a fruity, low-tannin wine like Grenache or Zinfandel to avoid intensifying the spice.

What temperature should I serve red wine with chicken?

Light to medium-bodied red wines, like Pinot Noir and Grenache, should be served slightly chilled at around 55-60°F (13-16°C). Medium to full-bodied reds, like Merlot and Tempranillo, are best served at room temperature, around 62-65°F (17-18°C).

Do I need to decant red wine before serving it with chicken?

Decanting can help enhance the wine’s flavor and aroma. It’s especially beneficial for full-bodied red wines, like Tempranillo, which may have a high level of tannins or sediment. Decanting is not always necessary for lighter red wines, but it’s a personal preference.

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