I’ve heard how legendary a champagne style wine paired with fried chicken can be but I’ve been dying to try it for myself. This last weekend, I decided since I had a half bottle of sparkling left, this would be as good of a time as any! So after work, I drove to the closest Popeyes (It’s my favorite fast food chicken…and I wasn’t going to wait for pressure fried at any local establishments! And I definitely wasn’t going to cook it myself!!!) and picked up a few pieces of chicken, both on the bone and boneless. One thing to take into consideration is that a sparkling wine will pretty much pair well with anything, so I really can’t go wrong here!
The wine I will be pairing is Iron Horse (Sonoma, CA) Chinese Cuvee. This wine is a style referred to as blanc de blancs. In the Champagne region, wine is made most commonly from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir and Meunier are both red grapes. When champagne is made with just Chardonnay, or other acceptable white varieties, it is a blanc de blanc. These tend to be crisp and a bit more acidic. The addition of the red grapes increases the fruit notes and body of the wine. This style is known as blanc de noir. Both styles would work well for this application.
First, I tried the wine with the crusty, oily skin. The acid in the wine does an excellent job of neutralizing the fat and salt. Also, the subtle sweetness compliments the salt very nicely. I got the spicy chicken, but because the alcohol content in the sparkling wine isn’t too high, so the heat isn’t accentuated. Then there’s the bread notes of the wine. These notes develop during the aging process as yeast cells are placed into the wine to ferment the sugar into alcohol. When the alcohol level reaches a particular range, or when the sugar drops below a certain range, the yeast can no longer survive and die off. The yeast is left in the bottle and becomes known as lees. When a sparkling wine makes note of ‘lees time’, they are quantifying this length of time. The longer the lees time, the greater the notes of baked bread, baguette, or biscuits, will be when you taste the wine. The bread qualities in the wine also enhance the pairing with the breaded chicken and the buttered biscuit that came on the side! Overall, this was a fun and delicious experiment!! Would highly recommend!