Lighter to Medium-bodied and earthier red wines, such as Burgundy, Pinot Noir, Vinsobres, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Beaujolais Villages, or a Côte du Rhône pair best with Coq Au Vin. Coq Au Vin translates to Rooster in Wine, however, in North America, we tend to enjoy it as Chicken. The classic recipe calls for Rooster braised with an unoaked or lightly oaked red wine, lardons (thick bacon), mushrooms and herbs, garlic or pearl onions.
Traditionally, you want to pair up the same red wine you braised your poultry in. However, this can be expensive if you’re going to pair a pricier wine with the dish, so I often opt to braise my wine with inexpensive but still high-quality red wines such as a Beaujolais. Heavier reds, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Barolo also work with Coq Au Vin as while poultry is light, the lardons, herbs and red wine you add to the reduced red wine sauce are not. With heavier reds, the pairing won’t be phenomenal, but it will be enjoyable.
If the poultry is braised in white wine, such as an Alsace Riesling, pair it up with the same white wine if possible.
Best wine with Coq Au Vin
Burgundy and Coq Au Vin Pairing
Red Burgundy is the classic Coq Au Vin Pairing. I find Burgundy a little too light to pair well with Coq Au Vin, however, I’ve never had a traditional French Coq Au Vin made with rooster either. Typically I’ve enjoyed Coq Au Vin prepared in a restaurant where the dish is loaded with lardons and garlic, and the poultry is no longer the star of the show.
Burgundy is a Pinot Noir from France that is fresh, fruity, but complex with earthier flavours that will complement the mushrooms, lardons, and herbs in your red wine sauce. Meanwhile, the lighter fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry provide plenty of flavour, which will not overpower the poultry.
If preparing Coq Au Vin at home, I’d suggest using a lower-tier of Burgundy in your wine sauce, and then pairing the final dish up with a mid-ranged Burgundy.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape & Coq Au Vin Pairing
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre and hails from Southern Rhone in France. Châteauneuf-du-Pape leans more on the full-bodied side of red wine and thus pairs best with Coq Au Vin loaded with mushrooms, herbs, garlic and lardons.
The poultry in your Coq Au Vin will do a wonderful job of smoothing out the tannin in your Châteauneuf-du-Pape, allowing for its cooked flavours of blackberries, raspberries and black cherries to shine through. Châteauneuf-du-Pape also has lovely flavours of herbs de Provence, meat, smoke and black pepper that complement the herbal and earthier side of your Coq Au Vin.
Beaujolais Villages & Coq Au Vin Pairing
Beaujolais Villages is a light and fruity red wine from France that is made from the Gamay Noir grape. Overall, you’ll have a light and fruity red wine displaying vibrant notes of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. However, you’ll also find notes of pepper and spice that add a touch of complexity and complement the herbs and spices used in your red wine sauce.
Beaujolais Villages is best with lighter styles of Coq Au Vin where the Chicken is the star, and not the lardons or herbs and spices as a heavier Coq Au Vin will crush the lighter Beaujolais flavours.
Cru Beaujolais such as a Morgon pair even better with Coq Au Vin, as they are more akin to a Burgundy in some instances. Unfortunately, these variants of Beaujolais are often difficult to track down or find on shelves.
Côtes du Rhône & Coq Au Vin Pairing
Côtes-du-Rhone is a Grenache-based blend from the Rhone Valley of France and will often include grapes such as Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre. Medium in tannin and body, Côtes du Rhône makes a lovely pairing with Coq Au Vin as it won’t overpower the poultry flavours, but it has enough personality to complement the mushrooms and lardons in the dish.
With Côtes-du-Rhone, you’ll see a wide range of styles and flavours, but in most instances, expect flavours of black pepper, earth, spice, smoke, strawberry, raspberry and plum. Basically, Côtes du Rhône is a medium-bodied fruity red wine with an earthy veil.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Coq Au Vin Pairing
You won’t often see many people recommending Cabernet Sauvignon with Coq Au Vin, as most people writing about food and wine are traditionalists. I, on the other hand, live in Canada, and our restaurants often don’t go by tradition but are fueled by individuality. Furthermore, working as a wine Sommelier in Canada, I’ve come to realize that people love their California Cabernet Sauvignon.
Seeing as North American Coq Au Vin is often made with chicken, you wouldn’t expect a heavier red wine to pair up with the dish. But in North America, the poultry isn’t the star of the show, but rather it’s the red wine sauce loaded with earthier flavours of bacon, herbs, spice, onions and mushrooms. Thus, a heavier red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon will pair up just fine with the dish. In fact, most red wines will go fine with Coq Au Vin as the dish features a significant amount of wine as its core ingredient.
This won’t be a pairing to write home about as Cabernet Sauvignon won’t complement the earthier or herbal side of Coq Au Vin. The protein in the dish will help soften the tannin in the Cabernet Sauvignon, allowing the lush flavours of cassis, black cherry, blackberry and plum to shine through. You’ll also find notes of smoke, leather, chocolate and tobacco that will mesh well with the dish.
So, if you’re ordering a bottle of red wine at a restaurant where someone is having steak, and someone else is having Coq Au Vin, Cabernet Sauvignon will be a great choice. Or if you’re serving Coq Au Vin at a dinner party, and you know a few of your buddies only drink California Cabernet Sauvignon, feel free to bust out that bottle of Robert Mondavi, Murphy-Goode, Stag’s Leap, or McManis Cabernet Sauvignon.