The 14 Absolute Best Wines To Pair With Fried Chicken

Some foods naturally call for a wine pairing. Whether the wine is an element of the sauce or the dish comes from a cuisine intrinsically linked with the country's fermented grape production, familiar combinations are classics for a reason. That said, we're not opposed to novelty, especially when it means new flavors mingling on our palate.

While you may enjoy fried chicken from your local fast-food joint, the dish has a far broader history and reach than the Southern U.S. In fact, per John F. Mariani's book "The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink," it's likely that fried chicken was bought stateside by Scottish settlers (via BBC Travel). Thankfully, fried chicken lovers need not stop at one variation. Cultures across the globe feature the piping hot delicacy at the dining table, with recipes ranging from mild and crunchy to spicy and lightly crisped. Marinated, seasoned, and battered chicken takes on a whole new appeal when it's dunked into a boiling pot of lard.

If your fried chicken journey originated at fast-food restaurants, chances are you washed each greasy bite down with sweet fizzy soda. While that's one drink to pair with the poultry dish, we're keen to explore a casual yet slightly more sophisticated take. Discover our absolute favorite wines to pair with fried chicken.

1. Chenin blanc

Chenin blanc is a delightfully versatile grape that can be sweet, sparkling, luscious, rich, or zippy with an aromatic profile. With flavors including stone fruit, tropical fruit, citrus, ginger, white flowers, and honey, balanced by a medium-high acidity level, this grape is an excellent contender to pair with plenty of dishes, both meat and vegetable-focused.

A.A. Badenhorst Wines is a family-owned winery in South Africa, the country that holds the biggest amount of chenin blanc plantings in the world (via Wine Business). Locally, the grape is known as steen and makes up a large proportion of the white wine production. This version is classified under the winery's Secateurs tier and offers rich, fruity flavors with a streak of acidity.

This mouth-watering quality makes it a great wine to wash down each forkful of your fried chicken dinner. Thanks to the subtle honey notes, this chenin blanc is a good match for preparations with a hint of spice. Meanwhile, if you like to dip your crispy chicken in a sauce with sweet and/or sour elements, you'll find those qualities pleasantly enhanced by this balanced wine.

2. Albariño

As one of the star grapes of Portugal's famous Vinho Verde and a favorite in northern Spain, albariño (or alvarinho in Portuguese) produces well-balanced crisp, fruity wines. Notes of peach, citrus, and saline minerality make it a remarkable palate cleanser. Whether you're enjoying a plate of fried fish or a heartier plate of fried chicken, albariño is a great bet. Although relatively light-bodied, this grape packs in a punch of acidity and rich, fruity notes that can stand up to the savory poultry dish.

Uniquely, our choice of albariño comes from Bodega Garzón in Uruguay. Thanks to the influence of the breezy Atlantic coast, the wine is bright and fresh. Having only been introduced in the last few decades, the variety is not yet grown widely in South America, but it is rapidly gaining popularity (via James Suckling). During the aging period in stainless steel tanks, the wine spends time on the lees, aka dead yeast cells. These add a layer of complexity, richness, and flavor, which complements the breaded chicken. Consider pairing this with citrus-based marinades or dipping sauces, or a basic fried chicken recipe.

3. Unoaked Chardonnay

Chardonnay often divides people on either side of the spectrum, with some declaring it the only wine they'll drink and others refusing it on all accounts — except when it's unknowingly in their Champagne blend. Nonetheless, the grape is wildly popular, as evidenced by close to 500,000 acres of vineyards across 40 countries (per Forbes). Thanks to its environmental adaptability and ability to morph into whatever the winemaker wants, it's worth reconsidering if you've dismissed chardonnay in the past.

Specifically, Ron Rubin Winery's UN•Oaked chardonnay is a true revelation if you've only tried buttery oaked styles from California. Brimming with ripe fruits and a freshness that will quench your thirst as you make your way through a bucket of fried chicken, this chardonnay is a must-have in your fridge. Flavors of apple, pear, and citrus shine brightly, so you'll want to keep the chicken seasoning light to avoid overwhelming the taste. Thanks to a backbone of acidity, each sip will easily wash down your fried meal.

4. Grüner Veltliner

One of the key elements of a successful wine pairing with fried food is acidity. Much like soda or lemonade, the acidity helps cleanse your palate, so it doesn't become oversaturated with grease. Grüner Veltliner, Austria's most planted grape variety (via Austrian Wine), is made in a range of styles and boasts a unique peppery taste with herbal notes and rounded fruit flavors. Lighter high-acid grüner is a top choice to pair with fried chicken, which makes sense considering wiener schnitzel is one of Austria's national dishes.

Nigl makes a range of grüner veltliner wines, including Piri, a bright and juicy take brimming with acidity, stone fruit, minerality, and an herbal finish. Though refreshingly crisp, the wine carries some body and a hint of sweetness, which make it a delicious option to pair with subtly spiced fried chicken dishes. Given its herbal qualities, preparations with a similar profile will seamlessly complement the flavors.

If your go-to order is country-fried or buttermilk-brined chicken, step outside the box and try a Southeast Asian rendition. Ayam goreng is a dish made by poaching chicken in a coconut, sugar, and spice mixture before frying it in hot oil. Served with a kick of spice, this savory meal is sure to be an exciting accompaniment to a chilled glass of grüner.

5. Gamay

Gamay is a favorite among red and white wine drinkers, thanks to its lighter body and fruity flavors, as well as its capacity to be made with more complexity. Popularized by Beaujolais Nouveau Day, celebrated shortly after harvest with bottlings of the newly made wine, the grape has been intrinsically linked to the French region of Beaujolais. That being said, it is slowly but surely making a name for itself in various countries around the world, including the U.S. (via Wine Enthusiast).

Gamay does especially well in Oregon, as Division Winemaking Company's version proves. Influenced by viticultural approaches from France (including Beaujolais), the winemakers follow low-intervention practices that are expressed through balance in the glass. This gamay wine is juicy, loaded with red fruits and spice, and highlighted by mineral elements. Thanks to a lighter fermentation via carbonic maceration, this wine is teeming with freshness.

All of its fruity and vibrant qualities make this bottle of gamay a dazzling pairing with fried chicken. There's nothing too weighty about it, yet it's bursting with flavor. Consider matching it with a dish with more pronounced seasonings to prevent the chicken from being an afterthought. A smoked and fried barbecue-style chicken would make an excellent contrast to the fruit-forward wine.

6. Cinsault

This heat-loving grape is a common ingredient of iconic Provençal rosé wines, as it thrives in the hot temperatures of Southern France. However, cinsault is definitely worth tasting when it is vinified as a single-varietal red wine. With floral aromas and notes of red fruit and spice, this low-tannin grape is a great choice if you're tired of drinking the same usual bottles. Though its popularity has recently been renewed in the region, cinsault is currently making waves in Chile's Itata Valley.

Rogue Vine is eager to highlight the terroir of this area, producing minimal-intervention wines that showcase the land. The old vines are drought-tolerant, which allows them to build up concentrated flavors, as displayed in the winery's Grand Itata Tinto wine. The vineyard's proximity to the Pacific Ocean helps the grapes retain freshness and plenty of fruit-forward flavors, making this a great pairing with a plate of fried chicken. Keep the seasonings fairly light to highlight the aromatic nature of the wine, or try a smoked variation for a bolder pairing.

7. Tempranillo rosé

Rosé wines come in such a broad range of styles that we'd be willing to argue they can be paired with any dish. Made from different grapes via assorted winemaking methods, you're looking at anything from sweet and light to bold and weighty. The tempranillo grape is at the heart of Rioja blends from Spain, and it is increasingly being experimented with in regions around the world. As a rosé, it commonly displays herbal notes with aromas of strawberries.

Cepa 21 Bodegas in Spain's hilly Ribera del Duero region makes a tempranillo rosato (Spanish for rosé) you'll want to get your hands on. With red fruit and citrus notes and a tinge of floral aromas, this rosato offers a high-acid profile that pairs wonderfully with fried food. The tempranillo grape offers more structure and a savory taste that allows you to serve it with slightly more robust fried chicken dishes. At the same time, this wine is distinctly fresh, making it suitable for lightly spiced or simpler preparations.

8. Sauvignon blanc

Easily recognizable by its herbaceous notes and tropical aromas, sauvignon blanc is popular around the world. While a large proportion of plantings are found in New Zealand and the Loire Vally in France, the grape is well-esteemed in many other viticultural regions. You might not associate it with Italy, but then again, South Tyrol is a uniquely distinct area of the prime grape-growing country. Here, mountainous landscapes and cool alpine climates offer the perfect grounds for white wine grapes.

Simply known as sauvignon locally, the grape thrives and produces elegant lively fruit-forward wines. Cantina Tramin is a well-established cooperative of grape growers in the region, and its sauvignon wine is fresh, crisp, and brimming with notes of gooseberry, spice, and elderflowers. This savory and zesty blend of flavors works well with fried chicken dishes with a similarly zippy and herbaceous kick. Whether served or seasoned with citrus or herbs, this wine will highlight the underlying notes. Not to mention, with its balanced acidity, your palate will be refreshed between every salty fried bite.

9. Crémant du Jura

If you haven't heard of the high-low pairing of Champagne with fried chicken, it's about time you did — even KFC recommends it on its corporate blog. While you could splurge on French Champagne, there are plenty of other sparkling wines made following the traditional method of fermentation used for the iconic drink.

For example, Crémant du Jura (a mountainous region in eastern France) is made according to this technique, which involves bottling a high-acid still wine with sugar in order to create a secondary fermentation to produce carbonation. During the maturation period, the wine comes into contact with dead yeast cells (aka lees), which contribute to bready brioche flavors in the final drink. Domaine Rolet produces a brut style, which is lower in residual sugar and will cut right through a greasy dish like fried chicken.

Its key characteristics — high acidity and biscuity aromas — are some of the qualities that make traditional method sparkling wines such a great match with fried chicken. Not to mention, you could even consider this a grown-up take on soda with fried chicken.

10. Riesling

Riesling — even the sweeter styles — makes a great pairing with fried chicken. The grape is known for having high levels of acidity, which arguably make it the wine equivalent of a mouth-puckeringly sour lemonade. With a hint or more of residual sugar, the result is well-balanced and very food friendly.

Weingut Robert Weil in Rheingau, Germany, has been exclusively growing riesling grapes across 90 hectares of vineyards for the past century and a half. That should give you an indication of the level of quality and care it takes to produce wines from this aromatic variety. The brand's Riesling Tradition wine is a classic take that consumers will enjoy whether or not they are accustomed to the grape.

A touch of sweetness makes this riesling a suitable pairing to offset the heat of spicier fried chicken dishes. Combined with a fruity flavor profile and notable acidity, each sip will prepare you for the next fiery bite. Consider serving this with a spicy Buffalo sauce-style chicken, or try it with Korean fried chicken in a gochujang marinade.

11. Cerdon

For a different take on a bottle of sparkling, think pink. Cerdon is a style of rosé bubbly made in Jura, France, with either or both gamay and poulsard red grapes. The skins are only left in contact with the juice for a short time, leading to a vibrant shade of magenta that tends to be darker than other sparkling rosé wines.

Notably, Cerdon undergoes a different type of fermentation than the one used to make Champagne bubbles. The ancestral method consists of bottling a wine before the primary fermentation is complete, allowing it to continue in the bottle to produce carbonation. The result is typically very sweet with a low alcohol level. Cerdon Bottex is a fine example, offering bright notes of red fruits with a creamy finish.

The bubbles and inherent sweetness of this wine make it reminiscent of a soda when paired with a pile of fried chicken. Nonetheless, this is definitely an upscale version, thanks to the fine mousse and elegant berry flavors. This pairs equally well with a simple dish of Southern fried chicken as it does with spicier flavors like Buffalo, Nashville hot chicken, or gochujang.

12. Grenache

Grenache wines come in a range of flavors and styles, partly because the versatile grape is grown in numerous countries. In Spain, it's known as garnacha and tends to develop higher alcohol levels and more concentrated flavors. With notes of raspberry and assorted red fruits, it offers spicy and smoky undertones that make it fun for sipping or pairing with food.

Bodegas Aroa produces minimal intervention organic wines in Navarra, northern Spain. Its Mutiko wine is 100% garnacha and has a medium body and vibrant flavors of berries, spices, and subtle notes of licorice. The acidity and tannin levels are both moderate, making this wine a good match for a heartier breaded and fried chicken dish. With an alcohol content of 15%, you'll want to skip spicier recipes to avoid too much of a clash on the palate. Instead, elevate a basic fried chicken meal with the bold flavors of this crowd-pleasing wine, or pair it with a smoked version for the ultimate match.

13. Fino Sherry

Though you might associate Sherry with an older family member who insists on drinking it pre- or post-dinner, you're best off wiping the slate clean and pouring yourself a glass of the stuff. While there are too many nuances and styles of Sherry to elaborate on, for the sake of our search for the absolute best fried chicken pairing, we recommend Fino.

The dry wine develops its unique flavors by aging under a film of yeast known as flor (via Sherry Wines). This prevents it from coming in contact with oxygen, imparting a distinct savory taste. Tio Pepe is a central producer in the region, and its Fino Sherry is a prime introduction for beginners to the style. With notes of almonds, olives, and green apples, the wine surprises with an element of salinity that makes it a great match with food.

Thanks to its mouth-watering qualities and dry finish, Fino Sherry is a solid pairing to accompany the salty taste of fried chicken. Try it with Japanese karaage and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to bring out its briny nature. And no matter how you've seen Sherry served in the past, you'll want to make sure your bottle of Fino is chilled to highlight its refreshing features.

14. Muscadet

The Muscadet region of the Loire Valley, France, is situated in close proximity to the Atlantic coast. The cool climate and saline breezes shine through in the local wines made from the melon de Bourgogne grape. Known for its bone-dry palate, Muscadet wine is a hit with coastal seafood dishes, but it doesn't stop there. The light-bodied wines are typically citrus-forward with notes of green apple and pear. Meanwhile, some styles are matured on the lees, much like Champagne production, which results in more complex flavors and yeasty aromas.

Domaine de l'Ecu produces a range of biodynamic Muscadet wines with the melon grape, excelling in showcasing its nuances. The winery's Classic bottle is aptly named for its unadulterated expression of the grape, which offers some floral aromas to balance the acidity. Paired with a bucket of fried chicken or a box of popcorn chicken, you'll love the way your palate is refreshed with each sip. The saline flavors of the wine complement the salty seasoning of the meal while retaining a much-needed freshness and crisp finish.