Last Updated: October 12, 2022
Chicken Parmigiana, or Chicken Parmesan, is a classic Italian dish made with breaded chicken breasts and mozzarella, parmesan, or provolone cheese coated with rich tomato sauce.
What’s wine got to do with it?
North Americans typically serve Chicken Parmesan as a main course with pasta, mashed potatoes, or salads such as Caesar salad and cauliflower salad. Since there are various styles of making this dish, the best wine with Chicken Parmesan depends mainly on the ingredients you choose to add or omit from your recipe.
Let's look at some of the wine pairing options below:
Chianti is an Italian red wine blend made primarily with Sangiovese grapes. Other grapes in the blend may include Cabernet Sauvignon, Colorino, Canaiolo, and Merlot.
The typical taste profile of an Italian Chianti includes red fruit, dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, espresso, sweet tobacco, and smoky notes.
Chianti's tasting notes, plus its high astringency and medium tannins, make it an excellent match for dishes with red sauce like Chicken Parmesan. The acidity cuts through the rich cheese topping and bread coating and complements the stewed tomatoes and herbs.
Chianti comes in several appellations depending on the subzone. Each subzone has minimum aging requirements, which affects the tasting notes. Chianti Classico red wine is from the original production zone, easily recognizable with a black rooster logo on the neck.
The typical taste notes of Chianti Classico include herbs, earth minerals, and smoke which blend in deliciously with Chicken Parmesan. A good recommendation is the Vallone di Cecione Chianti Classico from Toscana.
It is an award-winning Chianti with sweet fruit aromas and flavors of tobacco, oak, rosemary, and blackberry that enhance the taste of Chicken Parm well.
Montepulciano is an Italian red wine, also known as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. The Montepulciano is a cousin of the Sangiovese grape and grows in Abruzzo, Southern Italy, and the surrounding areas of Marche, Molise, Lazio, and Puglia.
On a side note, while the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine shares the same name and origins, it is not from the same grape as the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It is a different wine made with the Sangiovese grape.
However, Montepulciano has similar characteristics to Pinot Noir as it is a dry, medium-bodied red wine with smooth tannins and high acidity.
The primary flavors of Montepulciano include blackberries, sour cherries, spices and pepper, and herbs like tomato and oregano. The high-quality Riserva varieties use small oak barrels for aging, which give the red wines oak, tobacco, cocoa, and leather flavors.
However, oak aging adds tannin to the wine, which clashes with tomatoes. Like Pinot Noir, Montepulciano makes an excellent congruent wine pairing with Chicken Parmigiana as it has almost similar flavors to this dish.
The berries and herbs help to enhance the flavors of the tomato sauce, herbs, and white meat, while the acidity cuts through the parmesan cheese, olive oil, and fried bread coating.
Barbera is another Italian red grape wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is one of the widely grown varieties in Italy after Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Merlot. Barbera d'Asti and Barbera d'Alba are the commonly known styles of this wine, and both pair well with Chicken Parmesan.
Both styles feature at least 90% Barbera grapes with a short aging period. The Superiore style is aged for at least 14 months, with at least seven of them in oak barrels.
However, there are some differences between the two styles. Barbera d'Alba is produced in lower quantities than the Barbera d'Asti. It tends to be darker in the glass, full-bodied with more intense fruit flavors, making it a good match for Chicken Parmigiana.
In comparison, Barbera d'Asti is brighter in color and is a more elegant style that goes better with a creamy dish like Fettuccine Alfredo.
Generally, Barbera is a dry red wine with soft tannins and high acidity. Typical tasting notes include red fruits like strawberries and red cherries, dark fruits like blackberry and plum, earthy notes, and warm spices like nutmeg and cloves.
The fruit-forward notes, high astringency, and smooth tannins make Barbera an excellent wine pairing for rich foods and tomato-based dishes like Chicken Parmigiana.
Soave is a classic white Italian wine made with Garganega grapes. Soave is an old wine region, and this white wine is known for its zesty citrus flavors and ability to age well. The typical taste notes of Soave include pear, peach, melon, sweet marjoram, and orange zest with a hint of salt, herbs, and floral notes.
New Soave white wines are lean with a bitter almond finish, while aged wines have rich nutty flavors and texture that goes well with a creamy sauce. A good example of this wine includes the Pieropan Soave Classico and the Inama Azienda Agricola Soave Classico.
Soave is a food-friendly white wine that pairs with most rich Italian dishes and makes a great complementary pair with Chicken Parmesan.
Soave is dry and medium-bodied with high acidity and fresh fruit notes. A notable characteristic of this white wine is its smooth, oily texture that sets it apart from other great white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
The common styles of Soave include Soave, Soave Spumante sparkling wines, Soave Colli Scaligeri - Soave produced in the Scaligeri hills around the Soave Classico zone. Others include Soave Classico, Soave Superiore - aged at least eight months and made with higher quality grapes, and Recioto di Soave- a sweet wine.
Lambrusco is a red Italian sparkling wine from Northern Italy. It is a fruit-forward, acidic with light tannins and fizzy beverage characterized by wild berry, floral, and dried herb flavors.
Lambrusco is a versatile light-bodied wine that goes well with almost any cuisine, street food, and Parmesan cheese. An example of this wine for pairing with Chicken Parmesan is the Cleto Chiari Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara.
Lambrusco is a group of old grape varieties, each with a different taste profile. The wines are either dry, semi-sweet, or sweet and are almost always fizzy.
The common styles include Lambrusco di Sorbara with orange, watermelon, and violet notes and Lambrusco Maestri, which is jammy with subtle notes of milk chocolate.
The Lambrusco Salamino varieties are often sweet to balance off high tannins and are great for wine pairing with spicy or peppery Chicken Parmesan recipes. On the other hand, the Lambrusco Grasparossa styles are bold with dark fruit flavors and medium tannins.
Taste Test: Care for another round of "fowling with best wines"? Sorry for the joke. It was done in "poor taste" (hah)! Anyways, proceed to read our "feathered" post and tell us how your palates "winged" it -- 🤣 Duck Wine Pairing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of wine pairs with Chicken Parmesan?
A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera d'Alba, or a Chianti Classico red wine will make a delicious match to your Chicken Parmigiana with heavy tomato sauce. On the other hand, medium or light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir and Montepulciano and white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, and Soave are ideal for light red sauces.
The rule of pairing red wines with dark meat and white wines with white meat does not apply to Chicken Parmesan. While chicken is white meat, the main focus of this dish when wine pairing is the tomato sauce, which goes quite well with Italian red wines.
What side dish goes well with Chicken Parmesan?
Chicken Parmesan is traditionally a pasta dish. There are many variations one can choose from -- such as rice, noodles with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and garlic bread to make a Chicken Parmigiana sandwich. Other side dishes may include Caesar salad, cauliflower salad, and salad with broccoli or cucumber.
There are two ways to approach wine and food pairings.
One way is to match the wine's taste profile with the food to enhance the flavors. Barbera, Chianti, Pinot Noir, Montepulciano, and Pinot Gris white wine make an excellent congruent red wine pairing as the tasting notes are similar to Chicken Parmesan.
Complimentary wine pairing balances the flavors with contrasting elements. A good example is pairing a sweet Lambrusco with a spicy Chicken Parmesan dish to balance each other. Ultimately, the best wine with Chicken Parmesan will depend on the Chicken Parmesan recipe you choose.