“Speaking of pleasure, Champagne and fried chicken are two of life's deep pleasures: one profound, and the other simple. When you bring the two together your pleasure amplifies …”
This de facto mission statement appeared in a 2014 email announcing the grand opening of Lou Wine and Tastings — an event celebrated with some rare bubbly from Jacquesson, paired with Kris Yenbamroong’s famous Night + Market chicken sandwich. The wine shop's proprietor, Lou Amdur, has been a longtime champion of fried chicken, not that it needed one.
A specialty of his is pairing the populist with the high-end. Following Amdur as he zigzags around his store in a Los Feliz strip mall in search of wines is like watching an impatient driver trying to evade rush hour traffic.
Fried chicken is “kind of atavistic … you can be a child or an octogenarian,” he says. In other words, it is one of the archetypal comfort foods. “I mean, just the word drumstick,” he exclaims.
“With fried food I look for acidity,” Amdur says, citing one of the common tenets of sommelier theory. Champagne is off the table now, though. Amdur describes it as a “classic” pairing, but he avoids it now. “I adore Champagne, but I don’t want to be distracted,” he says, explaining that it should be enjoyed as a stand-alone joy.
Instead, “Go for a simple methode traditionelle” sparkler that is “dry, crisp and super-clean, zingy … but with a little bit of residual sugar.” He points to bottles from producers such as Croci, Zanotto and Chanson. He ponders a bit more and then finds a Cremant from the Jura by Labet, a “grower I really dig.”
At the moment, Amdur’s fried chicken pairing is not with wine but cider, specifically a French one from Cidrerie du Vulcain made from three fruits: apple, quince and pear. Amdur says it has tannins as well as acidity, both of which provide an interesting contrast to the richness of the chicken. Kabinett and Feinherb rieslings also work well, as do some sauvgnon blancs from the Loire, as long as they have a lot of acidity and maybe a “tiny bit of sugar.” “You know what would be ridiculous…,” Amdur says, embarking on another tangent, “would be this orange wine,” pointing to a bottle from Paleokerisio from Greece. It has a dry caramelized aspect, like honey.
If you have a bottle of buttery chardonnay sitting in your fridge, Amdur admits that fried chicken offers the perfect excuse to pop the cork. It’s a gluten-free substitute for buttered biscuits and has the same effect. But it’s gotta have natural acidity. It’s all about the acidity.
Some wines to pair with fried chicken:
Ludovic Chanson Ich I Go Pétillant-Naturel Rose: made from pineau d’aunis and gamay grown in clay and limestone soils in the Loire. “Ich i go” is phonetic Japanese for strawberry.
2015 Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio: Semi-sparkling orange wine from Ioannina in Greece. Autumnal apples and grippy savory spice flavors.
Cidrerie du Vulcain Trois Pépins: Made from a blend of ancient apple, quince and pear varietals in Fribourg, Switzerland. Tart, dry and refreshing.