Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Pairing Chardonnay with a meal isn’t always as straightforward as we’d like. Sure it’s easy enough to know that Chardonnay pairs with chicken but what if it’s a spicy Thai chicken or what if it has a mushroom sauce or a mango sauce, does it still pair right?
I used to try the easy route with pairings. I have chicken and I have Chardonnay. Done! But of course, it’s not that easy. It depends how the Chardonnay was produced and how the chicken is prepared to truly get it right. Take your pairings up a notch by following a few simple pairing guidelines and you’ll look like a pro.
Let’s breakdown the flavor profiles a little and you’ll start to see how to pinpoint a great pairing. There are 2 layers to wine and food pairings. The first layer is the meal base like the type of fish or beef that is being served. The second layer is the preparation and seasonings used along with the accompaniments. And for the wine, it’s all about how it was produced.
Oaked vs Unoaked Chardonnay
Let’s first understand the flavor profiles of oaked Chardonnay vs unoaked Chardonnay. This will help point us to the right pairing.
Chardonnay aged in oak barrels gives the wine a toasty, vanilla flavor and a buttery texture. This means that earthy (grilled, roasted), and creamy foods work very well.
Chardonnay that is aged in stainless steel has a lighter, crisp flavor. It works best with lightly seasoned dishes and bright, fresh sides.
Oaked Chardonnay Pairings That Win Every Time
Layer 1: Meal Base
White meats like fish, chicken, and pork.
Layer 2: Seasonings & Sides
Mild, buttery, creamy dishes like butter herbed or alfredo sauce.
Earthy sides or sauces like mushrooms, mushroom risotto, or a creamy mushroom sauce like marsala.
Late summer veggies like corn, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
Foods that are caramelized from roasting or grilling.