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Saturday, July 22, 2006

How To Pair Wine with Chinese Food

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, beer is often touted as the drink of choice to serve with Chinese food. In fact, the Chinese have been avid wine drinkers for centuries. But unlike the French and Italian grape wines, traditional, grain-based Chinese wines haven't caught on in the west. Part of the problem - aside from the sheer difficulty of finding a liquor store or restaurant that carries Chinese wine - may be its high alcohol content. For example, Shaohsing, a traditional sherry-like wine made by fermenting sweetened rice or millet, can pack a whopping 18 percent alcohol. And then there's the notorious Mao Tai: a fiery, 55 proof concoction served to foreign dignitaries at diplomatic banquets.

Recently, the Chinese have been experimenting with grape and other fruit wines. Lychee wine, plum wine, and a honey grape wine made from white wine and honey are all on the market. Unfortunately, like rice wine, the selection of Chinese fruit wine in liquor stores and restaurants is not likely to increase anytime soon (although I recently enjoyed a grape wine from Northern China). But the difficulty in obtaining Chinese spirits doesn't mean you must forego wine with your meal altogether. There are several French, German, and Californian wines that are well suited to Chinese cuisine.

When choosing a wine, consider where the various dishes you are sampling originated. China is a huge country, with regional differences in climate and resources, and each region has developed its own culinary style.

For highly spiced Szechuan dishes, try a Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer literally means "spice grapes" and the California variant in particular has a "spicy-peach" flavour with a hint of ginger. Other possibilities include a French Puilly Fousse or a Sauvignon Blanc.

Known as China's "haute cuisine," Cantonese dishes are much more subtly seasoned. For the best result try a sweet fruity wine, such as a German Riesling. Meanwhile, a red Bordeaux is particularly appropriate for Shanghai cuisine. Dishes such as Lion's Head - large pork meatballs, topped with cabbage to suggest a lion's mane - are quite rich, and the tannin in the wine cuts the grease. A Merlot works well with Peking cuisine, which often features heavier meats like duck and beef. So does a burgundy such as Pinot Noir.

Of course, there's nothing to say that you can't enjoy a cold brew with your Chinese food. Beer is especially suited to spicier dishes, and, unlike wine, Chinese beer - especially Tsing Tao - is readily obtainable. Or you can stick with your own personal favorite. And cocktail aficionados may want to try some of the alcoholic concoctions listed below. Kan Pei! ("Bottoms up").

Autor: Rhonda Parkinson


  • Hi... that was great stuff.. I really like reading on this subject Could you tell me more on that... I love to explore

    By Anonymous Chinese Restaurants, at 9:00 AM  

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