KFC Wine Pairings

Everbody needs a GoV (Glass of Wine!) on National Fried Chicken Day


I'm back at the dinner table on National Fried Chicken Day, checking off another one of your favorite fast food joints and this time it's finger lickin' good. Chicken tends to be a fairly easy dish to pair with wines and seeing that we are in full summer mode, it's the perfect time to break out your favorite whites. Chicken's best friend, right?

Well, yes and no. One of the reasons chicken is so wine-friendly is because it's fairly neutral and takes on the character of the seasoning and method of preparation. That should make things pretty straightforward: grilled chicken can take a bigger wine; fried chicken needs bright acidity to combat the grease. It's all cut-and-dried. So which dish went better with the Vouvray, how did the Sauvignon Blanc fare and what about Pinot Grigio? Find out how your favorites did, and what the wild card winner was in our KFC Challenge!

The Wine List

I've opted to offer a selection of popular white wines with today's menu. It's summer and chicken, so what do you want, Barolo with your KFC? Actually I included a rosé and a red just for fun.

2008 Y3 Sauvignon Blanc - A lean, high acid wine.

2010 Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio - A classic mid-weight white.

2010 Verderol Verdejo - A richer, yet still fruity wine.

2010 Valley of the Moon Unoaked Chardonnay - A crisp Chardonnay.

2010 Sauvion Vouvray - A bright off-dry white.

2010 Dr. K Frank Semi-Dry Riesling - A rich, perfumed off-dry white.

2010 Prieure de Montezargue Tavel - A classic Provencal rosé

2009 Tapena Tempranillo - An easy drinking, fun red.

The Menu

What did you expect, Beef Wellington? Of course we got a bucket, split between original recipe and grilled, plus an order of hot wings (what they call dipped wings around these parts), a BBQ pulled chicken sandwich, as well as a classic grilled chicken sandwich that comes with bacon and cheese.


Yup, that's what the folks over at KFC seem to want us to call their grilled chicken. I mean, it's on the bucket. Of course, this is not really grilled chicken; it's roast chicken that's been branded.

As that, it's not bad at all. Mild and plain, a good foil for white wine, or so you would think. The Sauvignon Blanc turned fairly fruity and oddly tart here, as did the Verdejo. Both the Vouvray and the Riesling were just too much for the chicken, totally covering the bird's flavor, though the Riesling did taste delicious.  

Both the rosé and the Chardonnay worked pretty well with this dish, offering a nice textural complement to the chicken while finishing cleanly and fresh.

The Tempranillo just turned tannic and flat, and that left us one wine as a winner.

Finding a use for Pinot Grigio!

2010 Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio

OK, don't get me wrong, there are many great opportunites to showcase a great Pinot Grigio's qualities. I just never thought KGC was gonna be one of them!

This wine really rocked it. The pairing brought the mineral backbone of the wine to the fore, and the fruit and texture of the wine were perfectly matched to the chicken. This was one of those pairings where both the food and the wine were improved and I was surprised. Happily surprised.

Original Recipe KFC

I've always had good succes with rather bright, crisp wines and fried chicken. No reason to think this time would be any different, but it was.

Again, the Sauvignon Banc was not up to the challenge, lacking the fruit and richness to match up with the fried chicken, a problem that also plagued the rosé. The Pinot Grigio on the other hand showed just a touch of thinness and lacked the mineral vibe it showed with the grilled chicken.

We got closer with the Verdejo, which did show a touch of mineral along with big melon fruit, but it was overpowered by the chicken. The Riesling, in all its off-dry glory, did the opposite, manhandling the chicken and dominating the palate.

Once again the Tempranillo failed to impress, though the pairing was much better than with the grilled chicken. A bit of a surprise.

Fried Chicken Two Ways

Food and wine pairing can roughly be broken down into two strategies for success: complement or contrast.

In this case, we had winners with both:

2010 Valley of the Moon Unoaked Chardonnay

The Chardonnay was predictably lean and focused in the mouth, not offering a lot of depth of flavor but the acid was a perfect foil for the greasy chicken, and the interplay of fat and acid on the finish, along with the subtle fruit and chicken flavors, was tasty.

2010 Sauvion Vouvray

The noticable sweetness of this wine was pretty much tamed by the chicken, though you could still feel it, literally, making this a perfect textural match. The intensity of fruit here did cover much of the chicken flavor but it wasn't so strong that the spice notes were obscured, creating a nice spicy/fruity interplay of flavors.

Hot Wings

These are not Buffalo wings, but rather crispy battered wings infused with some raw spiciness, a challenging combo to pair with wine.

These little buggers were really tough on the wines, stripping the fruit from the Sauvignon Banc, the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay.

Both the Verdejo and the rosé managed to offer some supporting fruit here, highlighting the spice but offering some contrasting tones.

The Tempranillo fought its way towards the top of the rankings, not because of anything other than the tannins offering some distraction from the heat.

The Riesling showed very well here, almost covering the spice with its sweet fruit and allowing the chicken flavor to pop. While successful, this was more of a good showing for the wine than the food, not the ideal integrated pairing.

Hot wings and...

2010 Sauvion Vouvray

Another wine for the Vouvray here, and for much the same reasons. The flavor intensity and texture of the Vouvray were just about ideal for these little winglets. You could taste the spice and that brought the fruit of the wine out but then on the finish the acid kicked in, helping clean everythng up and letting the meaty flavor out to play. This is a winner!

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Mentioned in this article


  • I've found that a good fruit-forward Pinto Noir works with fried chicken

    Jul 06, 2011 at 12:08 PM

  • Snooth User: eron
    634924 3

    I actually did a similar series for pairings on my blog with two local BYO place in Los Angeles, Chego and Starry Kitchen! Both fairly inexpensive, amazing food, and award-winning chefs doing exciting asian-inspired food. Also, don't forget that an off-dry sparkling riesling (riesling Sekt) would probably be killer with KFC food! For Chego's pairings (korean rice-bowl glory by the inventor of the Korean Taco) check out http://eronrauch.blogspot.com/2011/... and for the pairings I came up with for the more subtle Vietnamese influence of Starry Kitchen look at http://eronrauch.blogspot.com/2011/... Keep up these fun posts!

    Jul 06, 2011 at 6:11 PM

  • Snooth User: Hoopie1
    874219 165

    The funny thing for me was the fact that I was eating dinner while reading this article. Rotiss. Chicken and a J Pinot Gris. Not too far from the KFC experience.

    Jul 06, 2011 at 9:54 PM

  • Snooth User: whauptman
    864967 2

    I can't imagine why anyone would want to eat KFC chicken, therefore I can't imagine why anyone would want to pair it with a wine. Since when did wine and grease pair?

    Jul 07, 2011 at 10:01 AM

  • Since when did wine and grease pair?

    Oh, don't ever eat lamb again

    Jul 07, 2011 at 12:50 PM

  • This series is so bad, it is good. Great hook.


    Jul 07, 2011 at 3:53 PM

  • Snooth User: Aegelis
    Hand of Snooth
    515574 593

    Live a little folks. Instead of asking why all the time, ask "why not?" ;-)

    Jul 09, 2011 at 9:43 PM

  • Snooth User: BradITB
    889196 2

    Not surprised at all that the Vouvray worked so well with a bunch of the dishes. ;-)

    Believe it or not, sparkling Gruner Veltliner, while certainly off the beaten path, is a terrific match for fried chicken, as are a number of sparkling wines and Champagne.

    Jul 19, 2011 at 6:32 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I can see the Sparkling Gruner working well here, and know you'd like the Vouvray, but Champagne? Really? We have finally found a way to make you drink Champagne!

    Jul 19, 2011 at 6:43 PM

  • Snooth User: jimdixon
    157309 0

    Here's my "go-to" junk food wine: Chinon. Plenty of acid to cut through the grease, but low tannins to avoid clashing with the food. I refer to Chinon as my "KFC wine".

    Aug 04, 2011 at 4:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Helen Poole
    1337036 29

    That's nice

    Aug 30, 2013 at 5:32 AM

  • Snooth User: anvilpep
    1370081 34


    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:43 AM

  • That's niceThat's nice

    Sep 27, 2013 at 1:58 AM

  • well

    Oct 07, 2013 at 12:02 AM

  • great

    Jan 21, 2014 at 12:55 AM

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