Chinese Food, Wine And The Perfect Pairing
Chinese food and German Riesling wine is a wonderful pairing.
Selecting the right wine for Chinese food and even Thai cuisine requires identifying the dominant taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) sensation of a dish. The dominant taste sensations are sour (rice vinegar), sweet (sugar, coconut milk) and salt (soy).
When it comes to German Riesling wines and Chinese food, sensory scientists have shown that the different taste qualities - sweet, sour, salty, bitter - inhibit or suppress one another. In the domain of wine and food, we say they balance or compliment one another.
For example, sour (acidity) and sweet suppress one another; adding sugar to lemon juice reduces the tartness; the level of acidity or sourness has not changed but the presence of sugar changes how we perceive it. It is the Riesling grape’s ability to develop high sugar levels while maintaining acidity that produces white wines that age very well and compliment Chinese food as well. Riesling wine is produced from dry to very sweet; the sweetness level of a Kabinett or Spatlese counterbalances the Chinese food's salt and sour.
German Riesling wine is not only good at quelling the heat of chilies but it is a perfect wine for Thai and Chinese cuisine.
The conventional wisdom of pairing Gewurztraminer wine and Chinese food with highly spiced Szechuan dishes works except that Gewurztramner's higher alcohol levels (13-14%) kick up the burn a bit.
Gewurztraminer literally means "spice grapes". The California variant has a "spicy-peach" flavor along with a hint of ginger. Other possible choices in the pairing of Chinese food and wine are a French Pouily Fuisse or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Cantonese, China's "haute cuisine", dishes are much more subtly seasoned. For this Chinese food and wine pairing try a sweet fruity German Riesling Kabinett or Spatlese, and you will enjoy wonderful results. Meanwhile, a red Bordeaux wine pairing with Chinese food is particularly appropriate for Shanghai cuisine which tends to be quite rich so the tannin in the wine plays well against the fat content of the meat.
A Merlot from Pomerol or St. Emilion and Chinese food pairing compliments well with Peking cuisine, which often features heavier meats such as duck and beef. So does a red Burgundy which is made from Pinot Noir.
Dishes with fruit such as bananas, mangoes and peaches, pair well with Pinot Noir, Riesling and Merlot. Sherry or tawny Port goes well with dishes that include generous amounts of almonds or peanuts.
Duck and smoked ham go well with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel wines compliment foods customarily forward with fruit and spice, liberally laced with Szechuan peppercorns, chili peppers, wasabi, mustard or curry.
Chinese cuisine often consists of varied dishes, some notably sweet, some spicy, others fruity or smoky or delicate. There will likely be chicken, lobster, pork and duck.
When it comes to Chinese food and wine selection, no one wine will accommodate a vast range of flavors and textures.
There are a few wines that will work well paired with Chinese food. They are a medium-dry to lightly sweet Riesling, a Chardonnay, not too oaky, not too dry, and a mild, full-bodied Merlot with just the right amount of acidity. Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot wines always go well with a variety of foods and are very safe to be among your choices when pairing a wine with Chinese food to enhance the experience.
The real key to the pleasure of wine and food is simply relaxing and enjoying conviviality with friends. Now that you know the best wine pairings, Chinese food anyone?