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Chinese New Year is a time for family reunions, celebrating prosperity, and enjoying great food. The richness of Chinese culture is on full display. Every dish and every ingredient symbolizes a specific meaning or tradition. Even the number of dishes served in a meal symbolizes good luck and fortune. As such, choosing the best wine for your Chinese dinner might sound like a difficult task at first, but once you have mastered the art of wine pairing, you will be able to add layers of depth to a sophisticated world of Chinese food and accentuate the subtle details of Chinese style cooking.

In this simple guide, we will go over three essential wines that are best for pairing with Chinese food, as well as some tips and tricks on using them to highlight the finer shades of flavor in your meal.

◆ Red Wine ◆

The old saying is that red wine goes with red meat and white wine goes with white meat – this timeless rule also works well when pairing wine with Chinese food. Red wine generally has a heavier body and is excellent for pairing with red meat's rich, buttery flavor. On the other hand, white wine is usually much lighter and more suited for white meat such as fish, seafood, and chicken. Because Chinese food often thrives on spices and seasoning, your beverage's ability to match, complement, and balance out strong flavors will determine whether it is suitable as a pairing wine. A good rule of thumb would be to pick a wine that is richer in taste than the meat that is served.

Red wines such as Grenache, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon would all be great options for heavier meat dishes such as Siu Mei and cured meats. These types of wines usually have heavy bodies and high tannin and carry a natural, fruity aroma. The calm and moderate acidity of these red wines can balance out the buttery texture of the meat, which strong flavors can, in turn, alleviate the astringence of the wine. This is one of the best examples of how pairing wine can elevate the taste of Chinese food.

◆ White Wine ◆

For any seafood or Chinese food that is sour and acidic (many dishes from Sichuan cuisine fall into this category), it is best to pair them with a light and refreshing white wine. As a general rule, picking a wine that is more acidic than the food being served can help bring out the freshness of both the beverage and the dish. You should avoid pairing your wine with sourer Chinese food. This will prevent you from tasting the wine’s zesty acidity, and if the sourness of the wine falls behind too much, it might start to taste bland or even bitter.

If you are serving a milder menu of Chinese food (such as steamed fish or seafood), Riesling and Chardonnay will be the best wine pairing choice to help accentuate the freshness of the ingredients. Chardonnay is a light and refreshing wine that combines fruitiness with aroma. It is strong enough to keep your taste buds dancing, but light enough to let the Chinese food fully express itself in its most natural flavor.   

◆ Champagne ◆

If you are unsure about a dish or aren’t quite confident in your ability to pair the right wine for the right Chinese food yet, Champagne will be a reliable, one-wine-fits-all option that you can always count on. Its natural acidity makes it a great aperitif and a suitable pairing wine for almost any kind of Chinese food. Champagne’s velvety mouthfeel can help balance out a greasy meal, and its minerality resonates with many popular dishes in Chinese cuisine.

As of today, many food critics and chefs consider Champagne to be the perfect pairing wine for Cantonese cuisine, which is known for its mild and subtle use of seasoning and an emphasis on the freshness and natural taste of ingredients. Brut Champagne, which combines a lower sugar content with a dry, fruity taste, is perfect for this type of cuisine. Its tiny hint of sweetness helps focus your attention on the wine's minerality, which in turn can bring out the subtle, deeper layers of flavor that are often overlooked.


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