Log In / Join Now

Three's a Charm: Wings That Go Beyond Game Day

Different dressings take a bar classic into the realm of wine-friendly snacks

Lizzie Munro
Posted: October 30, 2013

When it comes to small plates for parties, there's no reason to feel limited to the classic standbys. A single base ingredient can yield multiple dishes perfect for entertaining—and accommodate a wide range of wine pairings. Whether you choose to try one, two or all three of the recipes below, we hope that they add a little variety to your menu.

Never one to steer away from the deep fryer, I’ve made my fair share of buffalo wings. Once, I even went so far as to dredge six pounds of them in cornstarch before employing a double-fry technique–similar to what you might use for a traditional French fry–to ensure a flawlessly crisp skin. (Needless to say, the process was time-consuming.) The payoff was worth it; slathered in butter and Louisiana hot sauce, these wings were sports-bar staples, made at home—spicy and messy and satisfying. They were beer lovers’ food.

This is not to say that wine can’t find its match in a traditionally flavored wing, but swapping out a spicy butter sauce for one that’s more wine-friendly does make pairing easier, if that’s what you’re after. Turning to the grill instead of the deep fryer helps, too; not only does it make for a healthier dish, it’s also much less labor-intensive. In fact, these three recipes require so little forethought, they could be served for any occasion—although they’d certainly be welcome on game day as well.

I like to grill my wings outdoors as far into fall as possible, weather permitting, but you can use an indoor grill pan or broil them if you prefer. (Note that the cooking times may vary depending on the strength of your broiler.) Though these three variations work off the same base recipe, the different dressings allow for a diverse set of wine pairings.

Up first are wings coated in lemon and thyme vinaigrette, topped with caramelized onions and chunks of feta cheese. Though the onions and tangy feta paired well with a Greek Assyrtiko, the dressing proved too bitter for the full-bodied white. A fresh and floral Vouvray, however, had just enough crisp acidity to balance the citrus and herbal flavors in the dish, and highlighted the fruitiness of the olive oil–based dressing.

Next, orange- and honey-glazed wings are spiked with chipotle adobo for a touch of mellow, smoky heat. The sweet and spicy flavor profile in this recipe calls for a wine with a bit of residual sugar, but an Alsace Gewürztraminer overwhelmed the fruity orange notes, making them taste almost pithy. A Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel, on the other hand, with its ripe citrus flavors and juicy finish, balanced the character of the sauce, while maintaining its fresh fruit flavors.

The third recipe, by far the most aggressively seasoned wing, is dressed in a sticky soy, sesame and ginger glaze. I tried pairing these wings with an assortment of wines, and the results were surprising. Another Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel highlighted the sesame and ginger notes in the glaze, but did little to tone down the soy-tinged finish. Some may enjoy these pronounced flavors, however, and the wine certainly holds its own, compromising little of its lush, honeyed character.

But a Lambrusco was able to cut through the saltiness of the thick soy glaze, which in turn tempered the flavors of crème de cassis and cherry in this fruit-forward sparkler. What’s more, it highlighted the wine's more muted notes of mineral and anise, making for a more mellow and balanced pairing overall.

Recipe Photo Gallery

Photograph by Lizzie Munro Photograph by Lizzie Munro Photograph by Lizzie Munro Photograph by Lizzie Munro Photograph by Lizzie Munro Photograph by Lizzie Munro

Photographs by Lizzie Munro; click any thumbnail image to open the slideshow.

Wings Dressed With Lemon, Herb and Feta

Pair with Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans Vouvray Sec La Coulée d'Argent Vieilles Vignes 2011 (89 points, $21)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil, for cooking
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 pounds grilled or broiled chicken wings, warm or at room temperature (see below)

1. Set a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of oil and the sliced onion. Season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

2. Whisk together all remaining ingredients except for the feta and chicken wings. Toss the wings in the vinaigrette, until thoroughly coated. Add in the onions and feta and lightly toss together. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

< >

Wings Dressed With Orange, Honey and Chipotle

Pair with Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett Mosel Piesporter Goldtröpfchen 2012 (88, $31)
  • Juice and zest of four oranges, about 1 1/4 cups of juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle adobo, taken from a can of chipotle chilies
  • 4 pounds grilled or broiled chicken wings, warm or at room temperature (see below)
  • cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

Whisk together the orange juice, zest, honey and chipotle adobo. Toss with the wings and garnish with cilantro, if desired, and serve warm, or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

< >

Wings Glazed With Soy, Sesame and Ginger

Pair with Medici Ermete Lambrusco Grasparossa Le Tenute Bocciolo 2011 (88, $20)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 4 pounds grilled or broiled chicken wings, warm or at room temperature (see below)
  • sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
  • sliced scallions, for garnish (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, rice vinegar and honey, and simmer over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by almost one-third and will coat the back of a spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. When the soy glaze has cooled slightly, toss with the wings, then plate. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions, if desired, and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

For the wings:
  • 4 pounds chicken wings
  • oil, for tossing the wings
  • salt and pepper

1. If your wings are not already cut into separate pieces, do so by removing the wingtip with a sharp knife. Discard the wingtip, or save it for later use in stock. You can leave the flat and the drumette attached if you’d like, or you can separate them by cutting through the joint with a sharp knife. (Typically, you’ll see them separated, though this step is entirely optional.)

2. Preheat the grill or grill pan over high heat. (Alternatively, preheat the broiler.) Place the wings in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour in just enough oil to coat the wings. If grilling, place the wings on the hot grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until lightly charred and cooked through. Set aside and toss with your desired sauce.

If you’re broiling, arrange the wings on a baking sheet in a single layer and broil 4 to 5 inches from the surface for about 25 minutes total, flipping once, until crisp and cooked through. (You might need to cook the wings in two separate batches.) Set aside and toss with your desired sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.