Wine Choices You Will Love with Coq au Vin

Many people have heard of coq au vin, but fewer know that it’s one of the greatest dishes in all of French cuisine. Coq au vin is made with wine, so I’ve put together some tips for choosing the right bottle for your dinner table.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice for coq au vin. Like the meat, cabernet sauvignon has a bold, rich flavor that will stand up to the hearty tastes of your dish. It’s also a wine full in body, so you won’t find it too sweet or thin tasting.

Cabernet Sauvignon has high tannin levels (they’re like the fat content in a steak), which means they can age well over many years and develop complex flavors as they change over time.

I recommend the following Cabernet Sauvignon examples:

Substance ‘Cs’ Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the winery itself, “Classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Currant, blackberry, cigar box with touches of chocolate, cedar, and pencil lead. Full flavored & just so damn good. I should raise the price!”

Château Lynch-BagesPauillac (Grand Cru Classé) 2016

It exhibits a deep red color with notes of dark fruit, cassis, blackcurrants, and a distinctive hint of mint. On the palate, it is full in body with ripe tannins and cassis throughout. The finish is long.

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is distinctly dark fruit on the palate with cocoa and vanilla notes. It has gentle spices like nutmeg and cassis. The finish is smooth, long, and velvety.

Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is a good choice for cooking and pairing coq au vin. This dry French red wine has a fruity flavor that will complement the dish without overpowering it. Pinot noir is also light enough to pair with chicken and other lighter meats, such as lamb or pork.

These three wines are all great examples of Pinot Noir that will work well for coq au vin:

2016 Domaine Lecheneaut Les Pruliers

This is towards the more expensive end of the price range but no doubt this is an exceptional wine. Les Pruliers has a strong color. The wine offers aromas of fresh red fruit, wild prunes, and licorice. As it ages, it adds depth and roundness. It has aromas of cocoa, and smoked meat.

2019 Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge

More affordable is the Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge. This is an organic pinot noir that’s delicate, easy to drink, and naturally delicious. It has a fresh, crunchy, summer pudding fruit flavor with crisp acidity and just lip-smacking moreishness. And because it’s low in sulfur, it’s great for summer or winter drinking.

2018 Corazza Pinot Nero

At the lower end of the price range is the Pinot Nero. This is a unique wine from Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy. It’s made from the pinot noir grape and is unlike other pinot noirs you might be used to. It’s light, bright, and easy to drink.

Merlot

This is a red wine grape variety that’s present in many Bordeaux blends, and it is fairly versatile for being such a popular varietal. It can be used to make wines with high tannins, which makes it an excellent choice for aging.

Merlot also tends to have soft fruit flavors and a smooth finish, so it’s commonly found in reds that are meant to go with food.

Given its versatility and the fact that merlot goes well with chicken dishes like coq au vin, this wine would be an excellent addition to your pantry if you’re looking for something new to try at dinner parties or family get-togethers.

I recommend trying one of these Merlots:

Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Merlot 2019

This mountainside Napa red, from the historic estate Mayacamas, has 5% cabernet franc in the blend that seems to lift the herbal notes on the nose. Bright blueberry fruit is balanced by savoury mushroom and pencil-lead flavors that are brilliantly held by the acidity and fine firm tannins that will allow this to age.

Arietta 2019 Merlot “Hudson” Carneros Napa

The 2019 Merlot Hudson Vineyard is full of dark fruit, chocolate, and other savory notes that add complexity to the wine. The wine has a fruity bouquet, with aromas of fresh blueberries and raspberries mixed with vanilla and oak.

Château Lyonnat Emotion, Lussac Saint-Emilion, 2016

The wine’s deep and intense ruby color is accented by a powerful nose with aromas of black fruits, blackcurrant, and darker berries. Notes of toasty oak lend complexity to an already complex bouquet. 

The wine’s aroma and flavor are bold, yet elegant. The woodsy scent of truffles lingers on the palate after each sip is swallowed.

Syrah (Shiraz)

Syrah is a red wine grape, often used to make blends. It’s known for its ability to age well and provide structure, so it’s a good match for the robust flavors of coq au vin. Syrahs are also ideal partners for rich meat dishes like roasts or braises that can benefit from their bold tannins and deep color.

Look out for these excellent examples of Syrah:

Calcareous Reserve Syrah 2020, Paso Robles

From the winery. “Aged in 40% deeply toasted French barrels for 18 months, our Estate Syrah is made to showcase the depth and power of the varietal from our soil. Full of juicy blackberry, dark cocoa, and tar mingling with rich fully ripe tannin, this massive wine is built for marbled rib eye and slow-smoked pork shoulder. It should age exquisitely for 12+ years.”    

Lewis Cellars Alec’s Blend 2018

A great wine to pair with. Flavors of black and red fruits with black pepper. Notes of vanilla, chocolate with good acidity. Blended 57% Syrah, 28% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Cabernet Franc.

Seppeltsfield 2018 Shiraz (Barossa Valley)

You can’t have a list of great Shiraz without a Barossa Valley and this is a cracker. It is a bold red with a fruity bouquet of dark cherry and blackberry with hints of oak, vanilla, and coffee. Acidity is good with medium tannins.  Highly recommended.

Gamay

This is a red wine grape that is grown in France, and it has been made into Gamay wines for centuries. Gamay is a light-bodied wine, which means that you can drink more of it without feeling too full or bloated after the meal. This makes Gamay an excellent choice for drinking with red meat dishes like Coq au Vin, but it’s also great for pork and chicken dishes as well.

I recommend one of these Gamay:

Georges Descombes Morgon (Beaujolais, France)

A simply outstanding Beaujolais with a floral bouquet and aromas of red berry fruits. The flavors are similarly of red berries with a floral undertone. Light to medium in body, the acidity is high in this very drinkable wine.

Scar of The Sea Topotero Vineyard Gamay, (San Luis Obispo, California)

From the winery,Think blood orange, peppercorn, and fresh strawberry”.

Critic tasting note: (2020 vintage) “Transparent in the glass, this herby display of Gamay from a very coastal vineyard fascinates with aromatic layers of tarragon, forest floor, uncracked peppercorn and pine needle trampled into muddy soil on the nose. Tart berry and plum flavors pop on the sip, where green sage and wild earth elements carry into the finish. Matt Kettmann” – 94/100Wine Enthusiast

Adroit Gamay (San Benito County)

Another great Gamay from California and exceptional value too.

Critic tasting note: (2019 vintage) “Freshly smashed strawberry and lively hibiscus aromas meet with white pepper, pine needle, and light soil on the nose of this bottling. The palate’s texture is extremely taut, releasing red-currant, white-peppercorn, and tart red-plum flavors in waves of expression. Matt Kettmann” – 94/100Wine Enthusiast

Conclusion

The right wine can make a good dish better. A well-chosen wine will complement the food, highlight its flavors and textures and bring out its best features. The same holds true for pairing wine with food. It’s not about matching the two like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but finding a balance that enhances both elements equally. Any of the wines discussed above will work well with coq au vin. My own choice is Pinot Noir with its fruitiness.

If you are planning to make your own Coq au Vin at home, then try Melissa Clark’s recipe in the NYT. Classic French cooking at its best.

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