Food and wine pairings are a wonderful way to enhance the enjoyment of your favorite dishes. Wine has many components that can complement different foods and even alter their flavor, making it possible for you to enjoy a whole new experience with each bite.
Chicken Marsala is a dish that pairs wonderfully with wine. The sweet and savory marsala sauce is a great match with the complex notes of red wines, while the chicken itself pairs well with white wines.
The key to pairing wine with chicken marsala is to find one that complements the marsala sauce. The sweet and savory marsala sauce has complex notes of mushrooms, butter, and marsala wine. That means the wine should be able to stand up to the sauce so that neither overpowers the other.
With that in mind, let us look at the flavor profile of chicken marsala and the wine pairings that would best complement it.
Chicken Marsala Flavor Profile
Chicken Marsala is an Italian dish that typically features chicken cutlets that are sautéed and served in a Marsala wine sauce. The chicken dish contains other ingredients, including flour, butter or oil, shallots, mushrooms, and seasonings, such as salt and pepper. Some recipes may also include garlic, parsley, chicken broth, or cream.
The preparation process involves dredging chicken cutlets in flour, then browning them in a pan with butter or oil. After the chicken is cooked through, it is removed from the pan, and a mixture of shallots, mushrooms, and Marsala wine (a key ingredient) is added to the pan to create the sauce. The chicken is then returned to the pan to finish cooking.
What is marsala wine?
Marsala wine is a fortified wine that originates from the Sicilian port town of Marsala in Italy. It can be made from a variety of grape varieties, but the most common are Grillo, Catarratto, and Inzolia.
The flavor profile of Marsala wine can vary depending on the type and aging process, but generally, it is characterized by a rich, amber color and a complex, nuanced taste. It can have notes of dried fruits, nuts, caramel, vanilla, and spices.
Generally, there are two types: Dry marsala wine and sweet marsala wine. Dry Marsala wine has a nutty, savory flavor, while sweet Marsala wine has a more pronounced sweetness, with notes of caramel and dried fruit.
So when we get down to it, the flavor profile of your chicken marsala dish will depend on the ingredients and type of marsala wine you’ll use in the dish. If you use dry Marsala wine, your dish will be less sweet and will have a more nutty flavor. If you use sweet Marsala wine, your dish will have a more pronounced sweetness.
In addition, the type of mushrooms you use in your chicken marsala dish can also change the overall taste of the dish. For instance, if you use cremini mushrooms, your dish will have a slightly earthy flavor. If you use button mushrooms, on the other hand, your dish will be sweeter and have a nutty flavor.
Wine Pairing Chicken Marsala Options
Dry White Wines
One popular wine pairing for Chicken Marsala is Pinot Grigio. This dry white wine from Northern Italy has a light body and bright acidity that helps to cut through the rich sauce of the dish. The fruity flavors of Pinot Grigio also complement the earthy flavors of the mushrooms in the sauce.
Another great option for pairing with Chicken Marsala is Sauvignon Blanc. This dry medium bodied white wine from France has a crisp acidity and bright citrus flavors that balance the rich flavors of the dish. Sauvignon Blanc also has a high acidity, which can help to cleanse the palate after each bite of the rich sauce.
Other dry white wine options that can complement Chicken Marsala include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling.
Light-Bodied Red Wines
One great option is Pinot Noir. This light-bodied red wine has a delicate flavor profile with notes of cherry and raspberry. Its light and elegant nature makes it a perfect match for the rich and savory flavors of the Chicken Marsala. The acidity of the Pinot Noir also helps to cut through the richness of the dish, making it a well-balanced pairing.
Another great option is Valpolicella. This red wine is made from a blend of grape varieties in the Veneto region of Italy. It has a fruity and floral aroma with notes of cherries, spices, and chocolate. Its bright acidity and light tannins make it a great match for the savory and slightly sweet flavors of the Chicken Marsala.
A light-bodied red wine from the Beaujolais region of France, such as a Gamay, is also a great option. Gamay grapes are known for their bright berry and cherry flavors, which complement the mushroom and Marsala wine flavors in the dish. The wine’s light body and fresh acidity help to balance the richness of the dish.
Medium-Bodied Red Wines
One great choice is Chianti. This is amake of red wine that is produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. It is a dry and medium-bodied wine that is often paired with Italian cuisine, including dishes like Chicken Marsala.
It has bold and robust flavors of black cherry, dried herbs, and tobacco. The wine itself is not overly sweet and has a dry finish that helps to balance the sweetness of the Marsala wine.
Another great choice is Barbera. This red wine has a fruity and earthy taste and a bit of spicy flavor that matches well with the spices in the dish.
Merlot is also a good choice. This medium-bodied wine is known for its soft, smooth tannins and medium body. Merlot grapes are widely grown, and the wine is produced in many different regions around the world, including France, Italy, the United States, and Chile.
The Merlot’s fruit-forward and soft tannins characteristic make it a versatile wine that can pair well with a variety of dishes, including Chicken Marsala. Its fruitiness complements the flavors of the mushrooms and Marsala wine used in the dish, creating a well-balanced meal.
Considerations for Pairing
Chicken Marsala features a rich, savory sauce made with mushrooms and Marsala wine. While you can pair any wine with your chicken marsala meal, some pairings work better than others.
That said, here are some considerations you should make when pairing wine with chicken marsala.
Matching Intensity of Flavors
In order to match the intensity of flavors, you’ll need to choose a wine that has similar taste and characteristics. A lighter-bodied red wine such as a Valpolicella or Pinot Noir is ideal for this dish because it will allow the chicken and mushrooms to shine through without competing with them too much.
If you’re looking for something more robust in its flavor profile, try a Chianti or Rose. These wines are typically made from Sangiovese grapes and have heavier bodies that will stand up to the meaty chicken and earthy mushrooms.
Balancing Acidity and Sweetness
Balancing acid and sweetness is one of the most important things to consider when pairing wine with food. In this example, you’ll want to pay close attention to how sweet or dry your Chicken Marsala tastes in order to select a wine that will complement it best.
If your dish is very sweet, you may want to choose a sweeter white wine. Conversely, if your dish has a little-to-no sweetness at all (it’s savory), then you could pick an off-dry or even semi-dry white wine instead.
If we’re talking about red wines here, though, it’s completely different: dryer dishes can be paired with drier reds, while sweeter dishes can be paired with sweeter reds too.
Enhancing or Contrasting Flavors
When you’re deciding what wine to pair with chicken marsala, it’s important to consider how the flavors will either enhance or contrast each other.
If you’re looking for a wine that will enhance the flavors of your dish, consider something like an earthy pinot noir or a crisp white wine. These types of wines will enhance the delicate flavors of your chicken without overpowering them.
If you’d prefer a more contrasting pairing, try serving something bolder with your meal, such as an oaky chardonnay or a spicy red blend. This will help balance out any sweetness in your dish and add some excitement to your meal.
Factors To Consider When Pairing Wine With Chicken Dishes
- The type of chicken dish (grilled, fried, roasted, etc.)
- The flavors and spices used in the dish
- The sauce or gravy accompanying the dish
- The type of preparation (light or rich)
Wine Pairing Suggestions for Different Types of Chicken Dishes
- Grilled chicken: Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir
- Fried chicken: Chardonnay, Riesling, or a Sparkling wine
- Roasted chicken: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Rose
- Chicken with creamy sauces: Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris/Grigio
- Chicken with tomato-based sauces: Chianti, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir
- Chicken with spicy flavors: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Rosé
When pairing wine with Chicken Marsala, it’s important to consider the flavors of the dish, as well as the body, tannins, acidity, and alcohol content of the wine. A traditional Chicken Marsala dish features a rich, savory sauce made with mushrooms and Marsala wine, so a wine with similar flavors, such as nutty, earthy, and sweet notes, is a good choice.
A medium-bodied wine with low tannins, moderate acidity, and alcohol content (around 13-14%) is also a good choice. This will help balance the flavors of the dish and not overpower the delicate flavors of the chicken and mushrooms.