What wine should you drink with a Chinese dinner? Even the most experienced sommeliers struggle to combine the typically intense flavours of this cuisine with the right label. We want to help you in this taste challenge!
In this short guide, we start from two certainties: the basic rule used to pair dishes with locally produced wine goes out the window, and we’re definitely ruling out Tsingtao beer, no two ways about it.
To find the right combination, we have to remember that the taste of wine is always enhanced by the flavours of the dish and not vice versa. So we have to start with the food, and when the menu offers us a wide variety of tastes and ingredients, making a fitting recommendation becomes complicated, to say the least.
The long Chinese culinary tradition, the vastness of the territory and the multitude of regional styles, all very different from one another, make Chinese dishes full of contrasting flavours. Think, for instance of all the recipes characterised by the bold combination of several contrasting flavours, such as sweet and sour dishes, or recipes containing spicy or hot sauces.
THE RULES TO FOLLOW
A good rule of thumb to follow is to favour a soft, aromatic wine. This is because pairing complex, spicy dishes with aromatic grape varieties that have a residual sugar component proves the perfect strategy for enhancing the taste of both the food and the wine. Dry Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Bianco are all safe bets. If we had to choose just one name, Gewürztraminer would be our pick, as it is a wine that complements spicy flavours and enhances the hotness of Chinese cuisine. A few more ideas? Try the #Exotic wines, our selection of aromatic white wines, fantastic when paired with any sweet and sour dish.
A second essential rule is to choose a bottle of wine with good acidity. Chinese food can often be greasy or fried; an acidic wine will take the edge off the fat, achieving a great balance. This confirms an aromatic wine as a valid option and opens up your choice to include new, drier options, characterised by a sapid, acidic profile. Are you bubble-lover? Wines with a #Brilliant character are the ones for you, especially recommended for fried foods. Prefer sticking to still wines? You could go from aromatic whites to dry wines with a strong freshness, such as our whites with an #Outgoing character, especially if your menu mainly includes fish or soups (here is our selection of #Outgoing wines).
A BOLD PROPOSAL
Believe it or not, in China, the wine consumed during meals is almost exclusively red. This opens up a new combination, particularly suitable for dishes with Duck or, more generally, meat. Red wines are only an option if they are light and if possible, not aged in the wood. Looking for recommendations? Check out our selection of #Laidback wines for a good Pinot Nero or other proposals that will be perfect with your Peking duck or sesame chicken. Want to push out the junk boat that little bit further? Don’t forget the freshness and fragrance of #Eccentric rosé wines.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
A wine with a high alcoholic content is the worst possible choice. It will cover the spiciness of your Szechuan chicken and make your tofu and any accompanying vegetables taste unpleasant. So when you’re at a Chinese restaurant and you pick up the wine list, remember that structured red wines are your worst nightmare. Tannins amplify spices and hotness to the max, with dangerous effects for your palate.
One last tip: the wines proposed in this article were chosen specifically for Chinese cuisine. Although many Asian dishes can be successfully paired with aromatic wines and, more generally, those recommended here, pay attention when it comes to Japanese cuisine. Ordering a Gewürztraminer with sushi is a common error, as the alcoholic structure of the bottle covers the delicacy of Japanese dishes. Order a good bottle of wine made using the Classic Method with sashimi and your favourite rolls. You won’t be disappointed!
Finally, bear in mind that, should you need him, your virtual sommelier is always ready to assist you, at any time and for any recipe!