When the Max’s Wine Dive PR peeps told me that this Sunday is “National Fried Chicken Day” it gave me the perfect opportunity to ask them if I could do the challenge that I had been waiting for ever since they opened: Does fried chicken really go with Champagne?
Busting my script, they took me up on the challenge. Kevin Usher, Wine Sales Manager at Max’s Dallas location put together a tasting of their popular Famous Southern Fried Chicken ($17), three pieces of chicken (breast, thigh and leg) with mashed potatoes, Texas toast and some of the best collard greens in Dallas, with Mumm’s ‘Cordon Rouge’ non-vintage Champagne. For completeness, and in deference to Dallasites who drink their sparkling wine from all over the world, he threw in four more popular sparkling wines from Max’s 15 selection list labeled ‘Bubbles’. I tasted each on its own and then with chicken. There was a surprise winner for best match with chicken!
The Sparkling Wines
Prices are those on Max’s wine list which can be consumed on site or sold, unopened, for off-premise consumption. Here are tasting notes based on the the wines alone (no fried chicken yet!).
Cava is Spain’s most famous sparkling wine and this one is something of a treat. It packs seven years of age and, not surprisingly, is showing some age on the bouquet and in the mouth. The nose is nutty, like a dry sherry, and, in the mouth, the nuttiness is even more pronounced. It tastes like an old wine.
Côté Mas ‘St. Hilaire’ Crément Rosé, Limoux, Languedoc, France ($49).
That long-winded name means that this French wine comes from the region of Languedoc (a large area that in the south of France from the Pyrénée mountains to Montpellier) around the town of Limoux. The rosé refers to the color of course (in this case, a glorious salmon tone) and the term crémant refers to the type of wine.
The nose smells of rose pettles, flowers. The character of the fruit is young and fresh. In the mouth, there is a quite rough tannic backbone that I anticipate will make the wine an excellent match with the fried chicken. It has a long and pleasant finish.
Prodige Blanc de Blancs, Loire, France ($34).
A blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Delightful brass color. Medium-high acid in the mouth, which should prevent the fat in the chicken making it taste flabby. Flavors of lime, cantaloupe, a hint of vegetal and mineral (calcareous) components. The wine is dry and has excellent fruit-acid balance. Good value.
Schramsberg, Blanc de Noir 2009, North Coast, California ($68).
Straw color. Nose slightly yeasty and maybe indicating slight corkiness. This receded with breathing. Dry. High acid. Hints of oak from barrel fermentation.
Mumm, ‘Cordon Rouge’, Champagne, France ($69)
Light straw color. The first really yeasty nose. The mouthfeel is a dense ball of champagne bubbliness. Thirty minutes after opening, the tiny bubbles continue to swirl from the bottom of the glass to the surface as prolifically as when the wine was first poured.
This is quite a global tour of sparkling wine. Three parts of France, plus Sain and California are represented. So how do the wines stand up when paired with that southern U.S. comfort food, fried chicken? The results are surprising.
The Cava was overwhelmed. It is a good wine and, singularly, had an aged character, but was better on its own.
The Loire Valley Prodige and the Schramsberg both stood up solidly to the chicken (both white and dark meat) and batter and were better with food than on their own.
The Cordon Rouge Champagne was another step up. It was also resilient with the fried chicken with some flavor contrast from the wine enhancing the chicken batter. It could be enjoyed with the chicken or on its own.
The revelation, and hands-down winner, was the Languedoc rosé. It’s flowery flavors mingled with the chicken meat producing buttery flavors in the mouth. Interestingly, it was the meat, not the batter, that appeared to produce this (the dark meat more so than the white meat. Maybe due to higher fat levels). I described the wine to Kevin Usher as a poster child for synergy between wine and food.
So Monday (or any day actually) is a good day for fried chicken. And I would hand it to Max’s Wine Dive “With Champagne?… Why the hell not indeed!” Especially if the ‘Champagne’ is actually a crémant from the south of France.
Finally, if you fancy something other than fried chicken, Max’s has a full, 2-part, menu. One part is the ‘classics’ (fried chicken, burgers, sliders, etc.). The other half is ‘Chef Patrick’s Menu’ in which execuchef Patrick Russell goes to town with seasonal and specialty items for an elevated dining experience (pork belly, scallops with Texas Caviar, snapper, etc). The accompanying 120+ selection wine list has a good and diverse selection of bottles from $29 to $540 and there are local beers (Deep Ellum, Franconia, Grapevine, Real Ale) as well.