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May 28, 2008
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Wine With Chicken Sausages

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       

Though we only started buying them about five years ago, chicken sausages have become very popular at our house.  In fact, they're now a regular pick-up-at-the-store-at-the-last-minute supper staple.  It turns out that we're not alone.  According to a recent report from the NIH (National Institutes of Health), 'chicken meat and its products have experienced increasing popularity and become widely spread all over the world.  Chicken sausage is one of the popular foodstuffs among these products.' 

Sausages are the essence of simplicity. Throw them on the grill, toss together a green salad, open a jar of mustard and a bottle of wine, and presto, in 15 minutes or so dinner is on the table.  Another thing we like about chicken sausages is that they come in such a wide variety of flavors and seasonings.  The ones we buy range from being fiery hot to displaying a hint of fruity sweetness.  We usually get a couple of different types-preferably one mild and one spicy-which provides us with an interesting diversity of flavor on the plate.  That diversity, though, can be a challenge when it comes to choosing a wine. It isn't the rather neutral chicken itself that must be taken into consideration, but the bolder sensations of the add-ons in the sausages, whether sweet, spicy, tangy, or herbal. 

Our quandary the other day was to find the best wine selections to go with both sausages spiked with habanero chilies and others flavored with apples.  Since we think of chicken sausages as simple supper fare, we decided to open only wines costing $20 or less (and most came in closer to $10).  One of the things we discovered in this exercise was that wines with high acidity (in this case a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio) tasted sour with the sweeter sausages, while tannic reds (a Sangiovese and a Petite Sirah) turned astringent with both.  At the same time, we discovered that a touch of sweet fruitiness in any wine, white, red or pink, was advantageous.  Such wines seemed refreshing with the sweetness of the apple sausages, and they softened the scorching impact of the chilies.  Spicier but still fruit-filled red wines also seemed to echo the spice of the habaneros.



Approx. Price



Cline, (California) Zinfandel 'Ancient Vines' 2006




This supple Zin performed particularly well with the fiery habanero sausages, as its jammy fruit more than held up to the heat.  That fruit's inherent sweetness also provided a pleasant complement to the apple sausages.




Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja (Spain) Dry White 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)






Though fairly non-descript when tried on its own, this fresh white wine (made with 100% Viura grapes) surprised us by unexpectedly gaining force when paired with the sausages.  Its crisp acidity provided an attractive foil to the sweeter ones, while providing relief and refreshment with the spicy ones. 




Yalumba, South Australia (Australia) Unwooded Chardonnay 'Y Series' 2007

(Imported by Negociants USA)






Fresh and vibrant, and full of juicy fruit flavor, this wine worked well with both sets of sausages.  By contrast, an oak-laden Chardonnay that we tried seemed cumbersome (especially with the apple sausages).




Perrin & Fils, Côtes du Rhône Villages (France) 2005

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)





Our consensus favorite, this fairly light-bodied red may seem too thin when sipped on its own, but it offered just the right weight to work well with this simple supper.  Its plum-flavored fruit and peppery undertones provided a welcome complement to both kinds of sausage.




Wild Rock, Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) Vin Gris 2007

(Imported by Kobrand Corporation)






Tasting bright, almost bouncy, this Pinot Noir-based rosé offered a refreshing counterpoint to the habanero sausages, while its strawberry-scented fruit accented the sweetness of the apple ones.