The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Marsala Wine Pairing

chicken marsala wine pairing

Wondering what’s the best wine pairing for your golden Chicken Marsala? This Italian-American dish, with its rich Marsala wine sauce, is a beloved staple on dinner tables and in Italian restaurants. Whether you’re a fan of white wines or red wines, we’ve got the perfect pairings that will elevate your Chicken Marsala to a gourmet experience.

The Perfect White Wine Pairings for Chicken Marsala

When it comes to pairing white wines with Chicken Marsala, the richness of the Marsala wine sauce plays a pivotal role. The sauce’s depth and complexity require wines that can stand up to its flavors without overshadowing the dish. Here’s a breakdown of the best white wines to elevate your Chicken Marsala experience:

1. Chardonnay

  • Profile: Full-bodied with notes of apple, pear, tropical fruits, and often a hint of butter or vanilla from oak aging.
  • Why it Works: The buttery undertones of a well-oaked Chardonnay complement the creamy texture of the Marsala sauce. Its fruit-forward nature balances the savory elements of the dish.
  • Example: A Chardonnay from California’s Napa Valley or Sonoma Coast would be ideal. These regions produce wines with the richness and body needed for Chicken Marsala.

2. Chenin Blanc

  • Profile: Medium-bodied with flavors of quince, apple, pear, and sometimes a touch of honey or wool.
  • Why it Works: Chenin Blanc offers a bright acidity that can cut through the richness of the dish, providing a refreshing counterpoint to the Marsala sauce. Its subtle sweetness can also highlight the caramelized flavors in the sauce.
  • Example: A Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France, which is made from Chenin Blanc, would be a delightful choice. Opt for a “Sec” or dry version for the best pairing.

3. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris

  • Profile: Light to medium-bodied with crisp notes of green apple, pear, and citrus.
  • Why it Works: The high acidity and citrus notes of Pinot Grigio can provide a zesty contrast to the dish, making each bite feel fresh and vibrant.
  • Example: A Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy or a Pinot Gris from Oregon would be a refreshing choice.

Chart: White Wine Pairing at a Glance

WineKey FlavorsIdeal Regions
ChardonnayApple, Pear, Butter, VanillaNapa Valley, Sonoma Coast
Chenin BlancQuince, Apple, HoneyLoire Valley
Pinot GrigioGreen Apple, Pear, CitrusNorthern Italy, Oregon

Pro Tip: When choosing a white wine for Chicken Marsala wine pairing, consider the side dishes you’ll be serving. If you’re going for lighter sides like a green salad or steamed vegetables, a crisper wine like Pinot Grigio might be the better choice. However, if you’re serving richer sides like mashed potatoes or risotto, a full-bodied Chardonnay can stand up to the entire meal.


By understanding the nuances of each white wine and how they interact with the flavors of Chicken Marsala, you can elevate your dining experience to gourmet levels. Whether you’re a wine novice or a seasoned connoisseur, these pairings will ensure your Chicken Marsala shines at the dinner table.

The Ideal Red Wine Pairings for Chicken Marsala

Pairing red wine with Chicken Marsala can be a delightful experience, especially when the wine complements the rich and savory Marsala wine sauce that is iconic to this dish. Here, we delve into the best red wines that harmonize with Chicken Marsala, enhancing its flavors and making your meal truly memorable.

1. Pinot Noir

  • Profile: Light to medium-bodied with flavors of red cherry, strawberry, and earthy notes, often with a hint of mushroom or forest floor.
  • Why it Works: The earthy, mushroom-like notes in Pinot Noir mirror the mushroom component of the Chicken Marsala dish. Its light body and low tannin level ensure it complements rather than overpowers the dish, making it a natural partner for Chicken Marsala.
  • Example: A Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Burgundy in France would be a classic choice. These regions are known for producing Pinot Noirs with the earthiness and elegance that pairs wonderfully with Chicken Marsala.

2. Gamay

  • Profile: Light-bodied with vibrant flavors of red fruit (like raspberry and red cherry), floral notes, and sometimes a hint of spice.
  • Why it Works: Gamay is known for its bright acidity and light, fruity character. These traits allow it to cut through the richness of the Marsala sauce while harmonizing with the chicken, making it a lighter red wine option that pairs beautifully with Chicken Marsala.
  • Example: A Beaujolais from France, which is made from the Gamay grape, would be a perfect choice. Opt for a Beaujolais-Villages for a bit more structure and depth.

Chart: Red Wine Pairing at a Glance

WineKey FlavorsIdeal Regions
Pinot NoirRed Cherry, Strawberry, EarthWillamette Valley, Burgundy
GamayRaspberry, Red Cherry, FloralBeaujolais

Pro Tip: When selecting a red wine for your Chicken Marsala wine pairing, consider the intensity of your Marsala sauce. If your sauce is particularly rich and robust, a Pinot Noir with its earthy complexity might be the better match. For a lighter Marsala sauce, the fruity and floral Gamay could be the ideal companion.


Choosing the right red wine to pair with Chicken Marsala doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By focusing on wines that complement the dish’s flavors without overwhelming them, you can create a dining experience that is both sophisticated and satisfying. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or enjoying a quiet evening at home, these red wine pairings will make your Chicken Marsala dish the star of the show.

The Star Ingredient: Marsala Wine

When it comes to Chicken Marsala wine pairing, the star of the show is undoubtedly Marsala wine itself. This fortified wine, hailing from the sun-kissed shores of Sicily, is the heart and soul of the Chicken Marsala dish. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of Marsala wine, exploring its varieties and how to choose the perfect bottle for your Chicken Marsala.

Types of Marsala Wine

Marsala wine is categorized based on its sweetness and aging process. Here are the primary types:

  1. Secco (Dry):
  2. Semi-Secco (Semi-Dry):
    • Between 40 and 100 grams of sugar per liter. Versatile, but less common in cooking.
  3. Dolce (Sweet):
    • More than 100 grams of sugar per liter. Typically used in desserts.

Aging Classifications of Marsala

  1. Fine:
  2. Superiore:
    • Aged for a minimum of 2 years. Richer and more complex, also great for cooking.
  3. Superiore Riserva:
    • Aged for a minimum of 4 years. Often enjoyed as a sipping wine.
  4. Vergine and/or Soleras:
    • Aged for a minimum of 5 years. The highest quality of Marsala wine, usually enjoyed on its own.

Chart: Marsala Wine at a Glance

TypeSweetness LevelIdeal Use
SeccoDrySavory Dishes
Semi-SeccoSemi-DryVersatile
DolceSweetDesserts
ClassificationMinimum AgingIdeal Use
Fine1 YearCooking
Superiore2 YearsCooking/Sipping
Superiore Riserva4 YearsSipping
Vergine/Soleras5 YearsSipping

Pro Tip: For cooking, especially for a savory dish like Chicken Marsala, choose a Fine or Superiore Marsala that’s labeled “Secco” (dry). This ensures that the wine will have the depth and complexity to enhance the dish without adding unwanted sweetness.

Example: Look for a bottle that clearly states “Marsala Superiore Secco” on the label and check for a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status, which guarantees its authenticity and quality.


The Unique Flavor Profile of Marsala

Marsala wine is celebrated for its rich, complex flavors. Expect to taste:

  • Nutty undertones
  • Caramelized sugar
  • Dried fruit (like figs and raisins)
  • Vanilla (in oak-aged varieties)

These flavors are key to Chicken Marsala’s signature taste, infusing the dish with a depth and richness that is utterly captivating.


The Importance of Authenticity

Ensure your Marsala wine is authentically from Sicily. The island’s unique climate and soil are integral to the wine’s distinctive flavor. Authentic Marsala will have a D.O.C. status on the label.


In the world of Chicken Marsala wine pairing, Marsala wine is not just an ingredient; it’s the essence of the dish. Choosing the right Marsala wine is akin to setting the stage for a spectacular culinary performance, where every bite sings with flavor and tradition.

Chicken Marsala Recipe: A Classic Dish with Perfect Wine Pairing

Indulge in the rich and savory flavors of this classic Italian-American dish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a restaurant-quality Chicken Marsala in your own kitchen, perfectly paired with the right wine.

Chicken Marsala Recipe

Ryan Yates
This is Chef Ryan's recipe for a Chicken Marsala that is fun, easy to put together and great for pairing with wine.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2/3 cup dry Marsala wine Fine or Superiore
  • 8 oz mushrooms sliced
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tbsps unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium shallot diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsps fresh parsley chopped
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

Prepare the Chicken:

  • Season the chicken breasts with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Cook the Mushrooms:

  • In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the sliced mushrooms. Cook until they are browned and tender. Add the minced garlic and diced shallot, and sauté until fragrant.

Make the Marsala Sauce:

  • Pour the Marsala wine into the skillet, stirring to deglaze the pan and loosen any browned bits. Let the wine reduce by half, allowing its flavors to concentrate.

Combine and Simmer:

  • Return the chicken to the skillet and add the chicken broth, heavy cream, and thyme leaves. Let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Finish with the remaining butter to add a touch of richness.

Garnish and Serve:

  • Sprinkle the dish with freshly chopped parsley before serving. This adds a burst of color and a fresh contrast to the rich sauce.

Notes

Hard-to-Find Ingredient Substitutions
Marsala Wine: Substitute with Madeira or dry sherry
Shallots: Substitute with a small onion
Pro Tips for the Perfect Chicken Marsala Wine Pairing
Choose a dry Marsala wine (Fine or Superiore) for cooking to ensure the sauce has a rich and authentic flavor.
When selecting a wine to drink with the meal, consider a Pinot Noir with earthy notes to complement the mushrooms, or a Chardonnay with buttery undertones to mirror the creaminess of the sauce.
Keyword Boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken, Chicken Marsala, Chicken Marsala Recipe, marsala

Hard-to-Find Ingredient Substitutions

Marsala Wine: Substitute with Madeira or dry sherry

Shallots: Substitute with a small onion

Pro Tips for the Perfect Chicken Marsala Wine Pairing

Choose a dry Marsala wine (Fine or Superiore) for cooking to ensure the sauce has a rich and authentic flavor.

When selecting a wine to drink with the meal, consider a Pinot Noir with earthy notes to complement the mushrooms, or a Chardonnay with buttery undertones to mirror the creaminess of the sauce.

Chart: Wine Pairing Suggestions at a Glance

Dish ComponentWine CharacteristicWine Example
Marsala SauceRich & ComplexDry Marsala
MushroomsEarthyPinot Noir
Creamy TextureButteryChardonnay

Example of a Perfect Evening: Imagine sitting down to a candlelit dinner, your plate graced with this succulent Chicken Marsala, its sauce rich and inviting. In your glass, a perfectly paired wine that complements each bite, enhancing the flavors and making the meal truly unforgettable. That’s the magic of a thoughtful Chicken Marsala wine pairing.


This Chicken Marsala recipe is more than just a list of ingredients; it’s a journey into the heart of Italian-American cuisine. And with the perfect wine pairing, it’s a journey that’s sure to delight all of your senses. Buon appetito!

FAQ’s On Chicken Marsala Wine Pairing

What is the origin of Chicken Marsala?

Chicken Marsala is thought to have originated in Sicily’s Trapani province, the home of Marsala wine.

Can I use a sweet Marsala wine?

For a savory dish like Chicken Marsala, it is best to use a dry Marsala wine, labeled as “Secco”.

What are some good side dishes for Chicken Marsala?

Mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, or pasta like fettuccine or linguine are excellent choices.

How can I store leftover Marsala wine?

Due to its higher alcohol content, an opened bottle of Marsala can last for about a month in a cool, dark place.

Can I make Chicken Marsala without wine?

For a non-alcoholic version, you can use chicken broth, but the unique flavor of Marsala will be missing.

Is Chicken Marsala gluten-free?

To make this dish gluten-free, use cornstarch instead of flour.

This article was reviewed and published by Ryan Yates, an Executive Chef, Restaurant Manager and Professional Mixologist and Level 1 Sommelier with over 15 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Ryan has 2 degree’s from Le Cordon Bleu in Hospitality and Restaurant Management as well as Culinary Arts. Ryan has managed and helped successfully grow a variety of establishments, from casual dining to Michelin rated restaurants. Ryan uses his diverse experience to provide a comprehensive and knowledgeable guide on all aspects of the food and beverage industry.

Ryan Yates

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