Poultry is unarguably the most flexible wine-and-food category. While red meat is usually best with red wines and fish and shellfish—although I am not completely convinced—best with whites, poultry really goes best with both. Few chicken, squab, or duck dishes cannot be matched with a selection of both red and white wines.
Chicken is the best-selling “bird” at our restaurant. Because it is in such demand, we have found many ways to serve it. The flavor of chicken is quite delicate, with an inherent sweetness, so can be easily overpowered by a wine—white or red—that is too strong. As in the case with red meat, one must pay close attention to the way the chicken is cooked and how it is seasoned and served. The simplest and most classic roast chicken with minimal seasoning (salt and pepper, garlic, and perhaps a few wedges of lemon tucked in the cavity) really wants a lighter wine, white or red, to accompany it: soft red Bordeaux; a scented but not too intricate Burgundy, like a Santenay, Monthélie; or red Mâcon—all of which are light in body, flavor, and tannin. As for whites, a German Riesling would be lovely, as would a medium-bodied fresh and delicate Chardonnay from anywhere in the world. If the preparation of the chicken is off the grill, a wine to foil the flavor of the grill (which can often be stronger than the chicken) is called upon. And as chicken is very neutral in flavor, more often than not one needs to pay closer attention to the other flavor factors: marinades, accompanying vegetables, herbs, spices, and the like.