What to Drink with Fried Chicken

What we learned eating and drinking at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen


This is one of our dispatches from a busy weekend at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

“You just kinda eat fried chicken,” says Andy Chabot (that’s Sha-beau), wine director for all of Walland, Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm restaurants. And that means you usually drink whatever’s around. But Chabot says he made a lot of sacrifices in search of the perfect pairing: “I ate a lot of chicken and drank a lot of wine.” This weekend at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen he shared what he’s honed in on: Champagne. “Something bubbly and acidic should be the perfect match for something like fried chicken that’s fatty, salty and crunchy.” But Chabot is the first to admit that just because something should work in theory doesn’t mean it will in practice. So he let us in on the pairing process and we got to taste along with him for the first time with fried chicken from his home base down in Tennessee. Chabot even flew in the sweet tea they used in the brine because he just doesn’t trust Colorado’s sweet tea prowess.

Here’s what we learned at the only Champagne tasting that ever required a wetnap at the end.

You don’t want anything too sweet:

We tried a variety of bubbly from incredibly acidic to yeasty and funky to fruity rosé. But we also tested a demi-sec from Jean Vesselle, that was cloying and a tasted a bit like really good cough drop on its own. The fried chicken didn’t help it much. Even doused in hot sauce it was not enough.

Funky Champagnes are not great either:

We had a yeasty, wonderful bottle of Les Meuniers de Clémence from Lelarge-Pugeot. But paired with the chicken it made for an odd sensation.

A bit fruity is the way to go:

The best pairing of chicken and Champagne was a bottle of Rosé from Lamiable. It had all the acid Chabot is looking for in a fried chicken pairing, but not so much that it hurts to take a sip. What really made it work were the very present strawberry notes.

The full list of what we tried (in descending order of success)

6. NV Philippe Gonet ‘3210’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
5. NV Jean Vesselle Cuvée Friandise Demi-Sec Rosé
4. NV Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meunier de Clémence
3. 2004 Delamotte Brut Le Mensil-Sur-Oger
2. NV Domaine de la Bergerie ‘Yves Guegniard’ Crémant de Loire
1. NV Lamiable Grand Cru Brut Rosé

To see more of the action at the F&W Classic in Aspen check out more on foodandwine.com or follow us on Instagram @foodandwine

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