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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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...
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!