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Sep 25, 2007 06:16 PM

Chinese food and wine pairing

I know this is a huge subject, but any input would be greatly appreciated. Different wines for different regional cuisine or does one have to be 'dish' specific. If the latter, a few dish specific/wine pairing examples would be most helpful! Information needed to 'train' some Chinese client 'new to the game'! Thanks in advance!

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  1. Mild - pair as you would any other cuisine
    Medium spicey with fruit flavors -- eg. orange beef -- Gewurztraminer with slight sweetness
    Hot - or medium spicy without pronounced fruit flavors -- German Riesling at the Spatlese or even Auslese level.

    1. The first challenge is that the mains tend to be served all at once, so you have mild seafood cheek-by-jowl with spicy tofu, deep-fried chicken next to beef in black bean sauce, etc. Add to this the multiplicity of ingredients and strong salty, sweet, bitter, earthy, fruity and acidic flavours. It's not what you'd call a wine-friendly cuisine.

      The solution is often to serve two wines -- a white and a red -- simultaneously (two glasses for each diner). And nothing too fancy or exquisitely nuanced. My last such pairing was a St-Bris (a minerally Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy) for the white and a fruity Beaujolais for the red, but there's no need to limit yourself to France. If you can go only with one wine, a white is usually your safest bet. That said and while I'm probably in the minority here, I find the knee-jerk pairing of Gewurztraminer makes even less sense at the Chinese table than it does at the Thai.

      Of course, individual dishes can pair wonderfully with specific wines, even specific fine wines. For example, Peking duck is a fabulous match with a non-blockbuster red Châteauneuf du Pape. But those you have to consider on a case-by-case basis.

      1 Reply
      1. re: carswell

        An ideal way to handle a tricky situation. As an aside, I might go for a Brute Rosé sparkler and then either a Kabinett Riesling, or maybe the BJ, that you suggested. The sparkler would also be a good wine to "toast" your guest, before the meal begins.

        I've mentioned the dinner with Chef Mark Miller (Coyote Café and others) before, but he did a tasting of a full-range of Oriental cuisine, with six beverages. Across the board, the Brute Rosé was the #1, or #2 pairing, and the hands-down winner of the evening. Now, if the restaurant only has a good one on the list...


      2. It's hard to miss with riesling here, although I know that's a generalization.

        1. HOW?! did I forget champagne????

          Champagne. For non-light seafood, maybe rose Champagne....

          1 Reply
          1. re: whiner

            In the Miller example, a Kabinett Riesling came in a weak second, but still second to the Iron Horse Brut Rosé. The spectrum of regional styles, heat and spice, was across the board, and the sparkler did the best. IIRC, The Becks ale did take one first, but the PN, Chard and SB did not score any wins. It really opened my eyes to the nature of a sparkler with a broad range of foods.


          2. In all the years that I have spent in either Taiwan or China , have never found wine to go well with Chinese food. I prefer an icy cold Tsingtao beer and save the wine for another time

            3 Replies
            1. re: tk467

              Out of curiosity, which wines have you tried there?


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                My brother-in-law just came back from Beijing. He told me that during a dinner at the famed restaurant 'Ding Tai Fung' where he had a ' Hairy crab multi-course dinner'. He was pleasantly surprised that the restaurant actually has a wine list and he was able to otder a 'Trimbach Riesling' to go with the meal. According to him, the food and wine pairing was spot on!

                1. re: Charles Yu


                  I'm not surprised by this....

                  Perhaps the greatest expansion in personal wealth in a long time has occured over the past 10-15 years in China... those who have benefitted are becoming major wine consumers and price is no object.

                  Thanks also for the interesting pairing report....