By Shamim de Brún
Everyone in Ireland has a wing opinion. You could talk forever to abject strangers about the best wings, the merits of Frank’s hot sauce, how cauliflower changed the game and beyond. Instead of wading into the capricious discourse, we have some stellar wing and wine pairings to dive into.
The notion of ‘pairing’ seems intimidating. Remember though that we all pair food with drinks; whether it’s coffee and a croissant or a cuppa with a digestive. We genuinely instinctually know some things are made for each other, like Guinness and Tayto. There’s a whole science behind it and a million things written about how flavours dance together.
That said, most of the time we only think to pair wine with food at fancy restaurants where there’s a sommelier waxing lyrical about the newest Ganevat, or that 2010 Bordeaux that just must be had. But pairing is actually great craic to try and fun to play with. Balancing or contrasting the flavours in your meal with the flavours in your drink is a simple way to liven and brighten up any dish, especially chicken wings.
Wings are a triumph. They unite the bitterest of enemies and cement the best friendships but what’s best about them is their ubiquity. And because you can find them anywhere you can play matchmaker with them everywhere. Here are 5 of our favourite wing and wine pairings and where to find them.
Whatever happened to BBQ wings? They were the solid go-to for the pubs of yore if yore was the 90s. Luckily you can still find them in the wild. Carménére is not a well-known grape, but it is the grape Chile does best. Its smokey notes and big but soft tannins mean it accompanies BBQ like an unexpectedly good debs date.
Try this one at Brickyard Gastropub, Dundrum
For where there is spicy there is Riesling. Buffalo is the stalwart knight of the wine world, always there for you. With Buffalo, you can go dry AF and get Riesling from Alsace, or you can go off-dry, wine talk for sweet, and hit up Germany. The dry will zing right through the spice in the same way lime does. The sweet will soften the spice in the same way celery does. Sometimes this grape can be un-riesling-ably expensive but there are some fab approachably priced options out there.
Get these pairings at Tribeca, Ranelagh.
Wings need not be limited to the western Americanised flavours we all love. Asian wings are a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The illustrious Teriyaki is emboldened by the caramelized sugar at its core. This inherent sweetness is complemented and supported by the bright berry bounciness of the often overlooked Grenache. Assemble these Avengers and you are in for a seriously mouthwatering situation, Homer style.
Best Found at HopHouse/Shakespeare, Dublin 1
We all learned the versatility of the sweet chilli when it landed on Ireland’s shores in the early aughts. It’s a sweet and spicy slice of utopian decadence gifted to us by globalisation. It caresses chicken as delicately as Sapho does her lovers. Riesling’s underappreciated sister is the perfect accomplice to these wings. Gruner-Veltliner strikes a good balance between acidity, to cut through the spice, and sweetness which will mesh with the sauces’ citrusy undertones. Put ’em together and what’ve ya got? Bibedy Bobbidy Beautiful
Give it a go at KOH, Dublin 2
Garlic is the truest love in life. Its pungent, slightly spicy flavour infuses joy into everything. Wings included. It’s fickle though, like all lovers, and needs different pairings depending on how many cloves, whether it’s roasted, or used as a vehicle for butter. That said, a good catch-all is a dry sparkler. Cremant, the name given to champagne-style wines made outside the Champagne region but still in France. It’s the road less travelled but the way to the heart of the cards. The crisp citrusy notes characteristic of Cremant makes a perfect bedfellow with the wilful zing of the garlic wing.
Try it at Wing It, Bray, Tallaght, and soon Dun Laoghaire
Also on Char: Ultimate Dublin Food Guide, Emerging Food Spots edition!