How to Choose Wine for Chicken Parmesan

By Whitney DeGroat

A successful wine-pasta pairing can bring the best out of both items, while the wrong pairing will make both drink and dish fall flat. The right wine for chicken parmesan will be strong enough to stand up to its rich, fatty texture and tomato taste. A wine that's dry, crisp and bold in flavor will make a fitting match for this dish.

Chicken Parmesan
credit: Joshua Minso/iStock/Getty Images
The right wine will compliment the flavors of chicken parmesan, and have its own qualities enhanced in return.

Prioritize Taste and Texture

Wine Spectator suggests choosing a wine that will balance the strongest element of the accompanying dish. In the case of chicken parmesan, tomato sauce would be the dominating factor. This tomato-rich food calls for a wine with enough tannins – the element that gives wine its dry quality – "to play into the cheese without killing the sauce," as Kristin Voisin, wine director of Otto Pizzeria, tells Serious Eats. The cheese and fried chicken are important elements as well, but are less powerful than and thus secondary to the tomato sauce.

Rich Reds

A classic red wine is a good standby for this Italian-American dish. Choose one that's somewhat light, dry and not too fruity. A red wine's flavor won't be overpowered by the richness of chicken parmesan, and also plays well with basil, which is a key feature in the dish. The acidity of Pinot Noir and Barbera make them good choices. Pinot compliments "robust, full-bodied ... pasta dishes with tomato sauce, basil and parmesan," according to Portside Liquors, while Barbera's acidity cuts through hearty, robust cheeses and creamy tomato sauces. The deep flavors of Merlot and Zinfandel qualify them, as well, to stand up to the strong tomato flavor and overall richness of chicken parmesan.

Flinty Whites

A dry, flinty wine has both an acidity and a steel-like quality on the tongue that cuts through fatty, greasy and salty foods like chicken parmesan. Such a wine cleanses the palate, and the heavy grease, salt and fat content in the food tempers the dryness of the wine, making it smoother in effect. The secret to the crisp, flint-like feel of a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc is in where its grapes are grown – areas where the soil is rich in limestone, such as the Loire Valley in France.

Champagnes or Sparkling Wines

Champagne's bubbles are good for more than just tickling your nose – they're also known for cutting through fatty, greasy and fried foods. This crispness makes rose Champagne or sparkling wine a prime match for the crispy fried chicken cheesiness and tomato richness of chicken parmesan.