Fruity and earthy red wines with plenty of acidity, such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Barbera, Primitivo and Merlot are the best wine pairings with Chicken Cacciatore.
Chicken Cacciatore is a traditional Italian meal (that translates to Chicken Hunter Style) made with tomatoes, herbs, and a variety of vegetables such as bell peppers, garlic, anchovies, onions, and black olives. In some instances, you’ll also have a little wine tossed in for extra measure. Dense with flavour, acidity is a must, as it highlights all the individual flavours of this hearty dish.
Chianti Classico is a medium-bodied and fruity red wine with supple tannin and balanced acidity. Acidity is critical when pairing any red wine with tomatoes as the tomatoes will clash with your wine if it is more tannic than acidity. This strife between tannin and tomatoes makes the wine taste like oxidized aluminum.
The acidity of Chianti Classico, along with the wine’s bright cherry and strawberry flavours, is also refreshing against the strong flavours of garlic, anchovies, onions, and black olives. The acidity of the wine washes all those strong flavours from your mouth with each and every sip. This is beneficial because it allows the chicken flavours to shine through rather than being overshadowed by the pungent flavours vying for your attention.
With Chianti, you’ll also find a rustic notes of herbs, leather, coffee, smoke and spice which complement any herbs in your Chicken Cacciatore, as well as adding an extra touch of flavour to the dish.
Brunello di Montalcino & Chicken Cacciatore Pairing
Brunello is a hearty Italian red wine from Tuscany/Montalcino and is made from the Sangiovese Grosso grape. Brunello has a lot of tannin, but it also has a lot of acidity, which works well with the intense tomato, bell pepper, olive, garlic, herbs, and onion flavours that are vying for your attention. You’ll also find bright black and red cherry notes that deliver plenty of refreshment.
Brunello can age for decades, and with this pairing, I’d select one with at least a decade of ageing. Chicken lacks the fat to tame the loud flavours of a youthful Brunello. With an aged Brunello, tannin mellows out, allowing you to appreciate the deeper notes of blueberry, cedar, smoke, herbs, spice, leather and violet. When properly aged, Brunello shouldn’t completely overpower the neutral chicken flavours, and the high acidity of this red wine should help the poultry flavours stand out amongst the crowd of olives, bell peppers, garlic and onions.
Barbera & Chicken Cacciatore Pairing
Barbera is a light and fruity red wine that is low in alcohol, but bright with delicious fruit flavours of cherry, plum, raspberry and raisin. The bright acidity and refreshing flavours of Barbera are a joy to eat with the poultry in your Chicken Cacciatore as they will not drown out the Chicken flavours.
Barbera is also loaded with rustic flavours of earth, black pepper, mineral, herbs and spice that blend in perfectly with all the garlic, herbs, onions and bell peppers tossed into the Cacciatore sauce. While Barbera is grown all over the world, I’d suggest an Italian Barbera from the Piedmont region for this traditional dish.
Primitivo & Chicken Cacciatore Pairing
Primitivo is the Italian version of Zinfandel, except it isn’t as jammy, it’s a little more rustic, a bit less alcohol, and Primitivo will have a little more acidity. You’ll still find plenty of fruit with Primitivo, particularly cherry, raspberry, blackberry and raisin. However, it’s the rustic notes of black pepper, chestnut, earth, chocolate and spices which make Primitivo jive so well with the strong garlic, onion, tomato, olive and bell pepper flavours found in Chicken Cacciatore.
Easy-drinking and likeable, Primitivo pairs well with Chicken Cacciatore as it has low tannin and medium acidity so it will never clash with the tomatoes in your Chicken Cacciatore. The wine also comes across as rich, smooth and velvety. If you’re a big fan of Zinfandel, give Primitivo a try.
Merlot & Chicken Cacciatore Pairing
Merlot isn’t the first wine that comes to mind when thinking about Chicken Cacciatore, but if you’re short on options, it’s a great option. Not every restaurant will have the wine stated above by the glass (though they should have the majority by the bottle), but they will almost certainly have Merlot by the glass.
Merlot by the glass will often be medium-bodied and well balanced with tannin and acidity. (Expensive Merlot can be a tannic beast, but you’ll never find that by the glass as oak-ageing costs money). Full of drippy cherry, plum and chocolate flavours, Merlot will seduce you in no time, and you’ll be wondering why you don’t drink it more often.
You’ll also find flavours of black pepper, licorice, leather, herbs, spice and smoke that make Merlot an exceptional pairing with the earthy vegetables in your Chicken Cacciatore.