Grilled Chicken Pairings

6 great wines for summer grilling


Chicken is a delicate meat and the truth is, it can really be dominated by the flavors of the grill, or any marinades and sauces that make up a specific dish.

The good news, though, is that sort of neutral base makes grilled chicken wonderfully wine-friendly and easily adaptable to many styles of preparation! Personally, I’m a big fan of spicy brined chicken grilled over grapevine clippings and served with a simple tomato and bread salad. It makes for a perfect summer supper and pairs well with all sorts of white wines, though I really like it with a light, fruity red wine like Frappato.

If that sounds familiar, I’ll try harder and make sure the rest of my recommendations for grilled chicken include the arcane and the insane!

Pictured: Grilled Buttermilk Chicken

Click here to see WhatsCook.In's Guide to Grilling Chicken

Brined & Grilled Chicken

This is a fairly simple recipe for grilled chicken and to prove it, also includes many finishing sauces to add the special touch to this recipe. With such a variety of sauces to choose from, I’m just going to focus on the main recipe, which features hints of juniper and lemon zest.

For whatever reason, that makes me totally think of Chardonnay here. The wood spice of oak-aged Chardonnay should be a great match for this dish; but if you want off the wall, check out some lightly aged Alsatian Pinot Gris! That should have a synergy of spice and sweetness that’ll blow your mind (at least the tiny part that controls your tongue).

2009 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay

2005 Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition

Wine-Brined Grilled Chicken

This is classic Euro-style grilled chicken and with a few substitutions, is a pretty good facsimile of what I use. One good plan with a recipe like this is to use the same wine for the marinade and the table – maybe not the same bottle, but the same grape.

If you’re going to use Sauvignon Blanc in the marinade, as the recipe suggests, I would pair this dish with a nice, slightly oaky Bordeaux Blanc. But if you’re not looking for your father’s wine pairing, grab a bottle of Sauvignon Vert, aka: Friulano, from Friuli (kind of intuitive, eh?). Friulano is richer and fuller than Sauvignon Blanc with faint herbal tones and more floral notes

2008 Chateau Guibon

2009 Marco Felluga Friulano

Grilled Beer-Brined Chicken

I should probably just recommend beer with this dish - and I might even drink beer with this dish! But this lightly sweet and spicy style of preparation should actually work well with several styles of wine.

First off is the obvious one, lightly sweet and spicy, a nice Gewurztraminer, for example. The less obvious choice would be to try and play off the earthy/floral tones that the beer imparts to a dish like this. This is totally the time for something weird and one of the funky, organic, almost orange wines from Northern Italy would hit the spot.

I’ll even tell you which one to search for, since these wines can be hard to find: the Pico from La Biancara di Angiolino Maule!


2009 Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer

Grilled Brined Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce and chicken? That’s either inspired or blasphemous, depending on your relationship with chimichurri sauce. Me, I’ve got an open relationship with this all-purpose condiment, firmly believing it makes everything taste better.  Remember I said that wine-brined chicken marinade was close to what I use? I lied. This is much closer, though the pinch of crushed red pepper turns into a whole handful!

This is a great wine for light and lively red wines. Think of a really fine Chianti or Sangiovese based blend, though something a bit more assertive might be needed here. Time to break out the Mencia! Yes, Mencia, that hip as a hula hoop red that all the cool kids were talking about before they realized how little is made and what happens to wines like that when you talk too much about them. Mainly, the prices go up and the wines get even harder to find! Well if Mencia is already too mainstream for you, then break into your Hondarribi Beltza with this dish.

That’s red Txakoli, folks. Yes, Txakoli is a wine. No, they spell words like that in the Basque country. Cha, Cha, it’s pronounced Cha-ko-lee. On second thought, the Mencia really is perfect for this dish.

2008 Montevertine Pian del Ciampolo

D. Ventura Ribeira Sacra

Grilled Buttermilk Chicken

Now here’s a recipe that will let the flavor of your chicken shine, so buy some good quality chickens. Seriously, this is all about the buttermilk and the brining. You’ll end up with super moist, super tender grilled bird; but the flavor will be meat and grill, not that there’s anything wrong with that. What this recipe does seem to be missing though is a squirt of lemon when you’re done. Why waste a lemon when can you reach for a zesty rosé instead! Seriously, rosé and simple grilled chicken like this are a near perfect pairing for a lovely summer’s eve.

Not a rosé person? Want something a little more interesting? How about some Marsanne? You can find some varietal Marsanne wines from the New World, or turn to the Northern Rhone; but in either case you’ll end up with a rich, mineral-driven wine with aromatic fruit that will deftly marry each bite of your perfectly grilled chicken.

Domaine de Terrebrune Rose

2009 Tahbilk Marsanne



The Ultimate Barbecued Chicken

It’s déjà vu all over again. I have the eerie feeling that I just paired this recipe with a wine. I deed! I deed! But it’s such a good recipe that I’m willing to throw down with it again. This is full on barbecue chicken and by that I mean grilled chicken with a sweet and spicy sauce on it. I don’t know where the first of these barbecue transmogrifications came from; but I have to admit, when it’s good, it’s great. Nostalgia food at its best – and messiest.

This is a dish that begs for a fruity red wine, something bold and zesty. I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest Zinfandel here, so I’ll say Zinfandel, then say Bonarda!

Bonarda from Argentina is a great fruity red that makes for a really fine pairing with this sort of dish. Fun food, fun wine. Not so interested in having frivolous fun here? Well I hear DRC makes for a great barbecue wine, so why don’t you try that and please invite me when you do.

Okay, so maybe that’s not a great idea. But you still want something different that would work with this dish, right? The answer is A to Z. Austria section, bottom shelf, pick out Zweigelt. Crisp, lightly spicy and complex, with plenty of pure fruit to spare. It’s a winning match, set, done.

2008 La Posta Bonarda

2009 Paul Achs Zweigelt

Slideshow View

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: nalvina
    872145 2

    These are really good wines to pair with the chicken, but why not a beautiful rosé, or, as I like, a New World Pinot (from California rather than Oregon)? What do you think?

    Jun 25, 2011 at 11:14 AM

  • Snooth User: dyye
    314202 75

    A pinot noir from California, Oregon or Western Washington sounds good to me. We don't get pints from Western Washington every year, but when we do they are really good.

    Jan 19, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips

Snooth Media Network