Fruit-based sauces like the apricot-onion pan sauce in this recipe pair well
with a ripe Chardonnay from a warm region. / © Lucy Schaeffer
Admittedly, pairing wine with chicken breasts is kind of a pump fake topic, since as anyone with a nose or a tongue (or both) knows, chicken breasts on their own are about as intensely flavorful as water, or air. But it’s a fine way to illustrate one of the basic wine pairing rules, which is “Sometimes it isn’t the meat, it’s the sauce.” Since we have about nine billion chicken breast recipes on our site at Food & Wine, I’ve hijacked some favorites as examples.
Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce
The flavors of a ripe Chardonnay from a warm region like California’s Central Coast usually range from apricot all the way to pineapple, making wines like this one a good partner for fruit-based sauces. The juicy 2009 Foxglove Chardonnay is a great choice (about $13).
Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken
If there’s one wine that loves goat cheese as a partner it’s Sauvignon Blanc, whose grassy, grapefruity character goes incredibly well with goat cheese’s innate—how to put this—goatiness. New Zealand, South Africa and Chile are all making terrific Sauvignon Blancs these days; a recent stand-out in the F&W tasting room was the crisp 2010 Beyond Sauvignon Blanc (about $11) from South Africa.
Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Rosemary and mushrooms are about as autumnally forest floor-ish as flavors get, echoing the classic French descriptor for a note found in many red Burgundies, sous-bois (literally, "undergrowth.") That’s most common in wines that have aged for a few years, but generally speaking any time mushrooms are involved in a dish, Pinot Noir isn’t a bad direction to head. Try the fragrant 2008 Nicolas Potel Cuvée Gerard Potel (about $20).
Sauteed Chicken with Olives, Capers & Roasted Lemons
With tangy Mediterranean ingredients as in this recipe of Lidia Bastianich’s, a similarly tangy white is the direction to head—a softer, richer wine will vanish. Sticking to the Mediterranean isn’t a bad idea either; why not? Try a Vermentino from Sardinia, a lime-zesty, bright white that will pair perfectly here. The citrusy 2010 Argiolas Costamolino (about $12) is a great possibility, as is the orange blossom-scented 2010 Santadi Villa Solais (also about $12).