One of the challenges of pairing fine wines with Chinese cuisine is that unless you are dining alone, several dishes will be served, and they can range from sweet and sour to pungent and savoury to spicy and oily. Since dishes arrive one by one, one approach is to break open a new bottle with each course.
Another is to choose a wine that is flexible enough to be paired with different flavours. Three of the safest bets would be an un-oaked Chardonnay, a medium dry to slightly sweet Riesling, and a full-bodied Merlot – with just the right amount of acid.
For spicy dishes, you might want to try a Gewurtraminer or a Zinfandel. A red Bourdeaux pairs well with oily dishes since the tannin in the wine cuts the grease. And Pinot Noir goes well with dishes that contain fruit.
“Chinese food has a very wide range of flavours and styles, with a strong influence according to the province it originates in and its culture and people,” says Pierre Legrandois, sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
“Generally speaking, the wine – either white or red – should have a strong personality, but it doesn’t necessary need to be a blockbuster. The most common grape variety used to match Chinese food is usually Riesling, which has almost become a classic. I personally like wines from Austria such as Gruner Veltliner or a good vintage Champagne Rose that contains richness and complexity with elegance. That pairs very well overall with Chinese food.”
Jason Shi, resident sommelier at the China World Hotel in Beijing, believes that pairing wines with food is a bit like playing matchmaker, and matching Chinese food with Western wines is a bit like creating an interracial marriage.
“No matter if the marriage is between Chinese and Chinese or Chinese and a foreigner, if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, no big conflicts will arise and the overall harmony can result in a happy marriage.”
Copyright: Michael Taylor