Pairing red wine with poultry?


Pairing red wine with poultry?

It seems like every holiday season I see someone posting to a message board asking for help pairing red wine with poultry, and 90% of the time the response is Pinot Noir.  Although many people default to white wine, the fact is that most Pinot Noir goes extremely well with white meats.  In the past I usually turned to Oregon for the perfect pairing but lately producers in California have been turning out wonderful examples from the Sonoma Coast.  Many of these new California Pinots have managed to obtain a balance between big fruit, earthy nuances and finesse.  For this night’s dinner I selected a perfect example of this, an A. P. Vin, 2007 Kranzler Vineyard Pinot Noir.

As for the bird, I picked a naturally raised 11 6-8 lb. chicken.  It’s amazing how your guests swoon when they hear roast chicken, but what’s even more amazing is how few people feel comfortable roasting one.  Roast chicken is not as difficult as many people think and with a few tools and tricks, which I’ve provided below, you can really impress your guests with the end result.

Garlic & Herb Roasted Chicken

A roast chicken, cooked to perfection, is moist and tender.  In this recipe, the meat is a perfect medley of chicken, roasted garlic and rosemary with a hint of lemon.  The skin is crispy and seasoned well, creating a textural dynamic against the moist and succulent meat.  When put against the Pinot, the intense fruit mingles with the herbs and sweet garlic.  The chicken adds complexities to the wine, and the wine cleanses the palate perfectly between each bite.  Even with its medium long finish, the lush, woodsy fruit of the Pinot becomes a backdrop to the chicken, which takes center stage.  On the side, I paired a simple sauté of Broccoli Rabe with garlic in olive oil, along with a braise of Crimini Mushrooms and cannellini beans in a Marsala butter sauce with roasted plum tomato.  These two sides play the perfect adversaries as the bitter bite of the Broccoli Rabe is tamed by the rich earthy flavors of the braise.

A. P. Vin, 2007 Kranzler Vineyard Pinot Noir

The wine, having been opened for an hour before tasting, showed rich raspberry, dusty dried flowers and some smoky bacon on the nose, which intermingled beautifully with the woodsy rosemary aromas from the roast chicken. On the palate it showed sweet blackberry fruit, plum sauce and orange zest with hints of clove and allspice.  Not only was this a perfect wine for the dinner before us, but it would be a showstopper with a Thanksgiving turkey.  The last time I sampled this 2007 was immediately after its release, and the fruit was powerful and concentrated, but over the last six months the concentration has backed off a bit, making this a wonderful candidate for food pairing and leaving me with an impression of pure elegance.

So I say, surprise your friends or family with a roast chicken in the near future and pair it with a Pinot Noir.  Not only will you incite your guests with nostalgic glee but I also think you’ll find a match made in heaven.

My idea of a perfect Roast Chicken

This technique may take a lot of space on a page to spell out but once you’ve tried it you’ll realize how easy it really is.

Firstly, invest in a digital instant read thermometer, which can be found in almost any home and kitchen store.  Once you own one you will always wonder how you ever lived without it.  The fact is that the thermometers roasts come with from the supermarket are completely unreliable, hence the reason we end up with a lot of overcooked poultry at holiday meals.  Imagine never having to guess if your roast is done and never making the fatal mistake of overcooking to dryness.

My second suggestion is to not only season the skin of the roast but to also season under the skin.  It’s really not as hard as it sounds.  I’ve supplied a recipe below for a garlic and herb rub, which is applied under the skin.  While the roast is cooking, the garlic and herbs are shielded from the overwhelming heat of the oven, allowing them to cook perfectly as they are steamed by the juices of the bird.  The flavors intermingle during the cooking process, and the end result is a crispy skin over a perfectly seasoned and flavored piece of poultry.  You don’t need to worry about basting, and you won’t even need gravy for the finished product.  However, I’d never pass up the ability to turn the pan drippings and fond into a sauce.

Click here for a printable pdf file of this recipe. Serves 4 to 6

11 6-8 lbs Whole Chicken (remove neck, heart and liver from inner cavity.)
½ Lemon
2 sprigs Rosemary
2 Tbls Canola oil
4 carrots (peeled and cut into four pieces each)
6 cloves of garlic (crushed)
3 stalks celery (rough cut)
2 onions (rough cut)
1 c Chicken stock
½ c White Wine (Remember, if don’t like drinking it, don’t cook with it.)
2 Tbls butter
Kosher Salt


5 - 6 cloves of garlic chopped fine
2 sprigs Rosemary (leaves removed and chopped fine)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbls EV Olive Oil
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Place ingredients for the rub in a Motor & Pestle and grind together until it forms a thick paste. 

3. Use your hands to loosen the skin around the breast of the chicken.  You should be able to slide your fingers under the skin and across each breast, but be careful not to tear the skin.  Do the same around the thighs and into the legs. 

4. Using your hands, take about a ¼ of the prepared rub and slide under the skin of one of the breasts.  Message the rub into the meat and distribute evenly under the skin.  Repeat this process with the other breast and the two thighs. 

5. Place the half lemon and Rosemary sprigs in the inner cavity of the chick.

6. With a sharp knife, cut the wings from the chicken at the joint closest to the body.  If you don’t do this, they will overcook.  Wings serve a better purpose in the roasting pan where they will lend more flavor to the sauce.

7. Using butcher twine, tie the two drumsticks together so that they form a closure over the chicken’s inner cavity.

8. Rub the chicken down with canola oil and generously season the skin with salt and pepper.

9. Place the chicken on a roasting rack over some rough-cut vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, and garlic work great, and don’t forget those wings.)

10. If you have an instant read thermometer (which you really should), insert it into the thickest part of the breast, but be very careful not touch any bone with the thermometer.

11.  Place the bird in the oven and forget about it for at least an hour.  After an hour, check on it.  What you’re looking for is to make sure that the skin is not browning too deeply.  Once you feel that the skin is dark enough, cover the top of the bird (not the entire roasting pan) with a small sheet of aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 375.

12. When your instant read thermometer reads 155 degrees (it took about 2 ¼ hours for mine), pull the bird from the oven (leave the thermometer in the roast), take it out of the roasting pan and place it on a surface in your kitchen covered in aluminum foil.  Don’t worry; the roast will achieve 165 degrees while resting on the countertop.

Note: this roast does not require a sauce.  If cooked to perfection it will be juicy enough and tasty enough that the sauce may dull the well defined flavors but it certainly can’t hurt to have, just in case.  Not to mention, it can always be used to dress a side dish, like mashed potatoes for a real family style meal.

11. To make a sauce, hold the roasting pan at an angle to allow any excess fat to collect at one side.  You do not need to remove all the fat, but remove any excess with a spoon.  Now place the roasting pan over the burners of your stovetop and set the burners to medium heat.  Pour the wine into the pan and use a spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan as the wine cooks down.  Next add the chicken stock and continue to cook until a sauce begins to form.  Season lightly and taste.  You’ll probably find the acidity to be a little high but the butter in the next step will help even that out.

12. Pour the contents of the roasting pan through a strainer and into a bowl to collect the vegetables and any solids.  The solids can be thrown away at this time.  Add the two tbls butter to the jus and stir to bring it together.  Taste and season again if necessary.

13. Slice your chicken onto warmed plates, dress it with the sauce if desired and serve.

Mentioned in this article


  • Where in the world can one find an 11 pound chicken? Sounds like a goose or a turkey to me! But it seems to me this recipe would work well with a turkey and the Pinot Noir should work as well with a turkey as with a huge chicken. What do you think? Nick

    Oct 02, 2009 at 12:47 PM

  • Perhaps "11 lbs Whole Chicken" means two or three birds running three-six pounds each?

    Oct 02, 2009 at 2:09 PM

  • ...after re-reading, I can see this was about one, 11-pound chicken, and indeed one can find out about such things with all those wonderful "internets" out there, including this one about a Thanksgiving Chicken:

    Oct 02, 2009 at 2:16 PM

  • Snooth User: dlamitie
    136542 1

    I purchased a beautiful 10lb free-range chicken from Whole Foods Market a couple of weeks ago. My family thought it was a turkey! 10-11lbs is a great size bird!

    Oct 02, 2009 at 2:42 PM

  • Snooth User: alan axe
    208562 9

    does BALCO have a farm?

    Oct 02, 2009 at 2:50 PM

  • That does sound rather large for a chicken. I do chicken in a pan (breast fillets or steaks without skin) and put spices and worcestshire sauce, some asian style dressing - maybe a little honey and smother it with mushrooms. It comes out pretty similar to a roast chicken and goes great with a pinot noir as well.

    Oct 02, 2009 at 3:23 PM

  • Snooth User: alecpier
    230555 2

    11 lbs chiken WOW!!! Pinot Noir should be in a Magnum.
    Juicy Roasted Chicken, with a side of potatoes & mushoms lightly sautee, would pair perfectly to a nice earthy pinot noir

    Oct 02, 2009 at 6:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    11lb chicken was a typo, sorry guys. Although I always tend to search for the largest bird I can find since the leftovers and scraps are so great for so many reasons. The rest of the recipe is fine.

    Almighty snooth, any chance that can be corrected to 6 - 8 pound chicken?

    Oct 02, 2009 at 7:15 PM

  • Snooth User: Honeybells
    214185 94

    Thanks for the recipe Eric! It sounds amazing, and I like that it uses simple, easy to find ingredients that I always have in my kitchen. I have a bottle of Pinot Noir ready for tonight, but no chicken. Do you have any vegetarian recommendations to pair with Pinot? Thanks! -Bells

    Oct 02, 2009 at 9:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Pinot Noir goes great with a large assortment of vegetarian dishes for the same reason that it goes well with poultry, it's not an overbearing wine. You won't find palate staining tannin in the majority of Pinot and therefore you don't need to worry as much as you do with most other reds. Pinot also has many similar flavor profiles that a lot of earthy vegetables have as well.

    I'd say the simplest suggestion would be mushrooms. Grilled Portabellos would be amazing against a Pinot. How about a butternut squash or pumpkin bisque for something that will pair great and be a little seasonal? Now I'm getting hungry. If you wanted something more filling, you could go for a wild mushroom Risotto.

    However, like I said, you can really go nuts with vegetarian dishes against Pinot Noir.

    Oct 03, 2009 at 12:31 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    Eric - Snooth here. Its corrected. I didnt want to tamper with it until I heard from you. I know everything in the US is bigger, so I thought maybe chickens were larger too.

    Oct 03, 2009 at 8:52 AM

  • Snooth User: Kenner
    118554 34

    Used your approach, with myriad spice/ flavorings for a long time, and give kudos for 155 degree pull out temp, which too many people are afraid of, but is correct for getting it right.

    Two points, however: the bird/roast should not be right out of the fridge to properly coast to 165 degrees; and all instant reads I know of are not meant to stay in the oven , but to be inserted, read and removed. The older style dial units stayed in, as can some with remote readouts, like Polder.


    Oct 03, 2009 at 5:35 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    I use a digital Polder that stays in the entire time with a readout unit that stays outside the oven, attached to a probe that goes into the oven

    Similar to this but not the exact same model

    Oct 03, 2009 at 7:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Hey philip, same problem with the body of the document which reads "As for the bird, I picked a naturally raised 11 lb. chicken." If you could fix it I'd appreciate it.


    Oct 03, 2009 at 7:15 PM

  • Sounds fantastic & not too intimidating to make. I love how thorough you are. Thank you for sharing!

    Oct 03, 2009 at 9:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    Eric - thats fixed as well

    Oct 03, 2009 at 11:14 PM

  • Snooth User: Peruchild
    254140 1

    Hi Eric, loved the article! Have you had the Torii More Pinot Noir, 2007? Any thoughts?

    Oct 04, 2009 at 12:13 PM

  • I really like the way you write a recipe, others could learn from you!

    Oct 04, 2009 at 11:53 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Peruchild - I've never tried it but will certainly look for it to try. I'm always up for a suggestion from a fellow wine lover.

    Halfbottle - Thanks. Recipe writing is new to me (At least writing them for others to read). I've had a few comments about people liking my style with them. I guess I'm doing something right. I appreciate the kind words.

    Oct 05, 2009 at 11:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Piccolo161
    199543 37

    Umm, mushrooms and Pinot Noir are a wonderful match. Thanks for the article Eric

    To solve the dilemma about whether to choose a white or red wine I'd like to suggest a Blanc de Noirs champagne - 100% Pinot Noir, but white, not red.
    In particular try A. Soutiran Perle Noire, Grand Cru.
    Fabulous golden colour in a clear bottle that shows off the colour to great effect. It has the depth of flavour to stand up easily to quite robust foods and would go very well with this recipe I think- both the chicken or the vegetarian option with mushrooms.

    A little more expensive than an average bottle of red Pinot Noir, but worth the experience

    Oct 07, 2009 at 5:11 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Thanks for the tip, I'll be sure to seek one out. I know very little about champagne.

    Oct 08, 2009 at 8:50 PM

  • Snooth User: radavis3
    145481 51

    I made this for some friends a couple of weeks back. I was at their house so I didn't have all the tools (roasting rack, thermometer, mortar and pestle), but it turned out really well. The 11lb chicken threw me too, so I just got the biggest bird I could find (6lb). It was enough for 4 adults and 2 kids.

    My friends were quite impressed, so thanks for this Eric. I am going to modify it and apply it to our Thanksgiving turkey tomorrow - This time with all the right tools.

    Nov 25, 2009 at 3:54 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 196,613

    Thanks, I did laugh though today when i was in Whole Foods and saw a 10.5 Lb Chicken, labeled "Roaster". I tell ya, I'm not crazy, just thinking big.

    Nov 25, 2009 at 10:11 PM

  • Made this for a dinner party and paired it with a Pinot from the Russian River Valley. Not bad at all! Read more here

    Jul 15, 2012 at 4:39 PM

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