What's the best wine for chicken wings?
The tongue-in-cheek answer would of course be "beer." But you asked about wine, so permit me to tackle the question head-on. (Yes, I'm afraid "tackle" was an intended football pun.)
When it comes to chicken wings, I instinctively think of such rich, hearty wines as red zinfandel and baco noir.
Wings can be prepared in a number of ways, both baked and fried and with sundry coatings. Some people prefer them sweetly glazed with honey, but the bar-food staple is commonly associated with hot spice tempered by a cooling dipping sauce.
I've been to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, which created the iconic deep-fried version known as Buffalo wings. I've also reproduced the same style many times at home using Anchor Bar's take-home spicy sauce as well as my own homemade ersatz version using a mix of Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce and melted margarine (don't even consider using butter; the texture's all drippy and wrong). The pepper sauce and margarine get tossed in a bowl with the wings after they emerge from the deep fryer, creating a glistening, neon-pink coating.
That coating calls for a thick, syrupy red with jammy fruit to help tame the heat – and a wine with the sort of unpretentious air that goes along with bib-staining finger food . California zinfandel (the red stuff, not the sweet pink wine known as "white zinfandel") works beautifully. So does baco noir, a big, gutsy red with comparably dense texture. Baco is a signature wine of several estates in Ontario, including Henry of Pelham. I once took a Henry of Pelham baco to a wing-happy Super Bowl party and guests were duly impressed. Jammy reds also harmonize well with tangy blue cheese, the base of the dipping sauce often served with hot chicken wings.
Other options worth exploring include inexpensive Argentine malbec, with its grapy, quaffable profile, Australian shiraz and – if you prefer a cold white – off-dry riesling, a wine with a sweet-tangy tension that curbs the spice while cutting through the fatty wing skin. Sparkling wine makes for another good match, though in this case I'd suggest a style with a hint of sweetness, such as Italian prosecco.
And, of course, there's always beer.
The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins) won top prize for best general English cookbook at the 2014 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards.