Summer Grilling Whites

5 great grilled chicken recipes and the wines that work perfectly with them


While I love a big, thick juicy steak grilled over hardwood, I find myself more often opting for something a little lighter. Grilled chicken and seafood recipes are becoming by best friends, and along with them I’m exploring the world of white and rose wines in more depth than ever before.

While a good steak is pretty easy to pair with wine, with so many red wines ready to fill the role, the lighter grilled chicken and seafood recipes are a bit trickier. Many people like to top their grilled steaks with sauces and marinades, but the best steak is just that, a perfectly aged, perfectly grilled slab of beef, so wine pairing is simple and easy. With seafood, and chicken in particular, there are sauces, marinades and rubs that come into play. Lets take a look at some of the most deliciously common styles of grilled chicken and work out the best wine pairings for each.

Grilled Chicken image via Shutterstock

Chicken Dijon Grilled on a Bed of Thyme

Herbs, mustard, scallions and a sweet touch of paprika come together in this recipe lending subtle yet assertive flavors to an otherwise simple preparation. This just screams out for a Sauvignon Blanc, and one that’s not too fruity yet one that celebrates the herbal nature intrinsic in Sauvignon Blanc. What else but Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc would work perfectly here? Herbal with a hint of chile over a base of firm citrus fruits, that’s just what you need to work with this French inspired recipe.

Two to try:

Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fume ($24)

Jean Reverdy Sancerre la Reine Blanche ($24)


Spicy Chile Grilled Chicken

Chicken can be such a neutral base that almost any style of preparation can be made to work spectacularly well when grilling. Case in point the myriad spicy cooking styles that saturate cookbooks and websites. We love our spicy food, that’s for sure, but what wine works best when we need to douse the fire in our mouths? This recipe starts us out on the right foot, as it combines a bit of sweetness that helps to temper that heat. A bold rose with an edge of sweetness would work perfectly here, standing up to the heat and dealing with the touch of sweetness this recipe delivers. And yes, that is white Zinfandel you’re seeing down there. Every wine has its moment! If you just can’t do white Zin, Rose d’Anjou is France’s answer, a classic off-dry rose!

Two to try:

Buehler Vineyards Rosé Blend ($10)

Remy Pannier Rosé d'Anjou ($12)


Five-Spice Grilled Chicken Thighs with Blackberry Glaze

OK, we’re definitely getting fancy here, using both a glaze and rub to build up layers of flavors on our chicken. This is sweet, and spiced, and all sorts of crazy for the wine pairing professional. So what do we need to find? Something red for the blackberries, and perhaps a little sweet for the spiciness. That ginger throws a wrench in the works since it can work well with either new French oak, which can have a gingery smell, or something exotically spiced like Gewurztraminer. Sounds like a disaster of dead ends to me, until we start popping corks on Lambrusco! A touch sweet, fruity, red and sparklingly spicy it’s a winner, and served chilled on a hot summer’s afternoon with this recipe it should be killer!

Two to try:

Barbolini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro ($15)

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Col Sassoso ($18)


Grilled Chicken with Italian Salsa

Here’s a real celebration of summer! Using the freshest tomatoes will really rock this recipe, though I would be tempted, nay obligated, to drop the Balsamic vinegar, as red wine would work better, and the orange juice concentrate from this recipe. I’m thinking fresh peaches, quickly pureed instead. So what we end up with is lightly fruity, tart, and richly tomatoey herb-scented grilled chicken. This could work with so many wines I don’t know where to begin, since I’m going to have to stay away from Sauvignon Blanc for the moment. Recommending another Sauvy would just be boooring. So where do we go? How about Italy! For better or worse I’m thinking of Lagrein rose, which is not what springs to mind when one thinks of Italy and tomatoes, but the deep fruit of Lagrein with it’s subtle herbal edge makes it perfect for this recipe.

Two to try:

Cantina Convento Muri-Gries Lagrein Rose ($17)

Alois Lageder Lagrein Rose ($17)


Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Kebabs with Lemon and Garlic

So now I’m cheating a bit, sneaking some shrimp on the barbie and all, but this recipe is just so simple, so easy, and so summery that I couldn’t resist. I’d serve this over some Jambalaya rice seasoned with andouille for a complete and easy meal, but these skewers could be served with just about anything and you'd still be eating like royalty. This is like beef for red wine; pick your favorite white wine and it’s sure to work well with this dish, so let me think for a moment and try and decide what today’s favorite white wine might be. And there it is, staring me in the face, this is the time to try something different and a white wine from Greece is just a perfect match. I’d love to be able to recommend specific varieties, but sadly Greek wines aren’t that available across the US, but a nice Greek blend can serve as an affordable introduction to the sunny, summery wines of Greece. Expect succulent citrus flavors and mouth watering and refreshing acidity!

Two to try:

Gaia Estate White Blend Nótios ($15)

Domaine Mercouri White Blend Foloi ($15)

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