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8 tips for pairing wine with Chinese food

Which wine works best with the diverse flavours and styles of Chinese cuisine? Here are some great options.
What wine should you pair with Chinese food? How about dim sum? Photo via Shutterstock

By Tony Kwan

A common misconception is that wine cannot be paired with Chinese food. At this time, I’m sure many of you are enjoying Chinese takeout at home, so I thought providing recommendations on pairing wine with Chinese food may be helpful. The traditional pairing with Chinese cuisine is tea of course, but Chinese food actually pairs very well with a variety of wines.

Chinese food is diverse so depending on the heaviness of the food, different wines pair well with different kinds of Chinese dishes. 

These are some great wine options when you’re enjoying Chinese cuisine:

  1. One of my favourite pairings is Chinese food and Champagne or sparkling wine. The acidity and citrus elements of champagne complements most Chinese food well. Any vegetable or seafood dish would be a perfect pairing.
  2. Another great choice is a Chardonnay that is not too oaky. So a crisp Chablis (which is produced with chardonnay grapes) pairs well with Chinese appetizers, fish and dim sum. I particularly like Chablis with geoduck.
  3. For crab and lobster dishes with heavy sauce, I like a heavier oaked Chardonnay. Pinot Gris or Viognier wines may also work well. 
  4. A great all-purpose wine for Chinese food is Beaujolais wines or Pinot Noir wines, which are great with duck, squab and other lighter meat dishes, like chicken and pork. Abalone with red Burgundy is one of my favourite pairings. If you are having Peking Duck or duck lettuce wrap, go light on the hoisin sauce as that kills the acidity of the wine and makes almost every wine seem flat.
  5. While we are on the topic of sauces, in general, go light on the soy sauce. Just like the Japanese use wasabi sparingly with sushi, the Chinese actually use soy sauce very sparingly. Using too much soy sauce will overpower any subtlety of a wine. I actually can’t remember the last time I used soy sauce in a Chinese restaurant, other than when I was eating the meat stock from a soup.
  6. How about spicy foods or Szechuan cuisine? I would go with an Australian Shiraz, or a B.C. or German Riesling.  The sweetness and the fruity and bold flavours of the wine combat the spiciness of the food nicely.
  7. For heavy meat dishes, go with a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Just like a steak, Chinese beef and lamb dishes are rich in flavour so you need a wine to cut through the tannins .
  8. How about desserts? Because Chinese desserts aren’t as sweet as Western desserts, they are perfect to pair with Icewines or Sauternes. The sweetness of the wine won’t clash with desserts such as mango pudding or egg tarts, and the dessert provides a milder accompaniment to the wine.

Wine recommendation

Since we are talking about Chinese cuisine, a nice all-purpose wine for Chinese food is Jadot 2018 Beaujolais Villages Combe Aux Jacques ($22.99 SKU: 469924). Made from the Gamay grape, I think Beaujolais Villages and Cru level wines (especially from the Moulin a Vent region, if you can find it) are great wines for Chinese food. They have lighter tannins, good fruit and acidity, and complement Chinese food well. Have a try and until next time, happy drinking!

Tony Kwan is the Richmond News' wine columnist. Lawyer by day, food and wine lover by night, Kwan is an epicurean who writes about wine, food and enjoying all that life has to offer.

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