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.
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.
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.
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.
References and ResourcesSerious Eats: Wine Pairing Advice: What to Drink With Italian-American Classics
Cooking Light: Great Wines for Everyday Meals
Wine Folly: Definitive Guide to Pairing Wine With Chicken and Other Poultry
Log A Bottle: Flinty
Dallas Magazine: Wine 101: Learning the Wines of the Loire Valley in France
Wine Spectator: How to Match Wine with Food
Portside Liquors: Wine & Food Pairing
The Fifty Best: Matching Food and Wine
Giovana's Wine and Spirits