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Chinese Food & Wine: A Match Made in Heaven?

Anyone who knows me will probably have a quiet chuckle when they see an article from me about food and wine pairing as they are completely aware that I am not a "foodie" at all. In fact, at many of Shanghai’s high-end wine dinners, there are heated arguments over whose turn it is to sit next to me, because invariably they’ll end up with two servings of at least two of the courses. Not so with the wine though, I’m always sure to finish those off. Nevertheless, with this month’s column I wanted to impart some of the knowledge that I’ve been able to soak in from some of my "foodie" mates.

Matching wine with Asian food is sometimes hit or miss, but if done correctly, it can be quite rewarding because the general ‘rules’ of wine pairing can mostly be thrown out the window. In most cases with Asian food, the sauce will make up the majority of the flavour, so it’s sometimes necessary to pick a wine that doesn’t match the meat, but completely complements the sauce. In other cases, a wine you wouldn’t normally think to pick as a food wine really shows its characters when mixed with Asian food. Take Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris as examples. In many cases they are an aperitif wine, but with steamed fish and soy sauce, or gong bao ji ding, they are great. Because of Gewürztraminer’s very particular floral variety, it just seems to work in taking any small spice out of the dish, lingering on your palette and giving a cleansing, refreshing aftertaste.

Possibly one of the most perfect pairings is Pinot Noir with Peking duck. In fact, the famous Australian wine consultant, Roy Moorfield, hosts a sell out Pinot and Duck crawl every year. It’s basically a crawl along Melbourne’s famous Chinatown streets, matching carefully prepared Peking duck servings with a glass of Pinot. By the end of the night, things tend to get a bit messy, but everyone is amazed at how the different styles of Pinot complement the duck so well. I believe it’s due to the plum sauce in the duck – try it for yourself. Many of the Chinese restaurants in Shanghai will allow BYO, as long as you sling them RMB 50 or 100 for corkage. Grab a bottle of Pinot (from Victoria or New Zealand) and head to Ya Wang or any other place serving good duck, and enjoy.


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