Top tip: Don’t take pairing wine with Chinese food TOO seriously – traditionally with such a large variety of dishes and flavors at each meal, there are usually going to be several good options.
There’s never been a better time to be a wine lover in China – not only are boutique Chinese wineries getting better and better, but the selection of foreign wines is also ever-increasing. Here are 14 opinions on how to pair Chinese food with wines, collected from sommeliers around the world. General consensus? It depends (of course), but Rieslings and Gerwurtzraminers offer a lot of sweetness and acidity that can balance out a lot of salty, fatty flavors present in many (but not all) Chinese dishes. Sparkling wines with Dim Sum – yes please. And finally, some room to play around with red wines with stronger, spicier dishes like mapo tofu or cumin lamb.
Chinese Wines to Avoid
The Top Three Producers: Changyu, Dynasty & Great Wall. The big three control over 60% of the market, and the bulk of their revenues derive from sales of cheap red wine. In 2010, 72% of wines retailed for less than $5 a bottle. These are a pretty resounding big miss and you don’t need to waste your taste buds.
Chinese Wines to Look for
Boutique Wineries: The market for Chinese boutique wines really started to gain respect in 2011 when four Chinese reds, led by Grace’s Chairman’s Reserve, beat French Bordeaux in a blind taste test in Beijing with international judges. (Some claimed the Bordeaux tasting was rigged, as wines had to be under $100, including the 48 percent mainland tax on imported wines.) That same year the Cabernet blend Jia Bei Lan, from the Helan Qing Xue vineyard, became the first Chinese wine to take the prestigious international trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Ningxia is home to more than 100 wineries, earning it the nickname of the “Napa of China”. They started in the 1990s and credit the dry climate, but it’s also cold and the vines have to be buried in winter to keep them alive.
There are an estimated 400 boutique wineries in China, from Xinjiang to Dongbei to Yunnan.
After a recent invite to try Lost Heaven’s signature Yunnan cuisine paired with excellent wines from two Tuscan wineries (Fattoria Betti & Fattoria Casalbosco), I was reminded of some of my favorite dishes from the perennial classic restaurant and how versatile a dining experience can be when you have enough people to order lots of dishes and lots of wines. Generally food will come out all at or close to the same time, but if you want to experiment more with pairing Chinese wines more directly with courses, just order food at a staggered pace. Kitchens in China are fast, so even if you order your dishes before each course change, you won’t be kept waiting all night.
Lost Heaven Beijing & Shanghai Ordering Recommendations:
Ghost Chicken Salad 鬼鸡 (spicy)
Dai Tribe Pork in Lettuce Wrap 傣族生菜包肉
Yunnan Wild Vegetable Cakes 云南野菜饼,
Yunnan Eggplant with Tofu Salad 茄子豆腐 (spicy)
Dali style chicken: 大理风味葱椒鸡.
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (凉拌茶叶）
They also feature an extensive wine list featuring local and imported wines (you might just have to get out your reading glasses and phone flashlight due to the super dark mood lighting).
Where to get Chinese wine in Shanghai:
- M on the Bund carries Grace, Helan Mountain, Kanaan and Nine Peaks.
- Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen carries Grace and Silver Heights.
- Element Fresh carries Kanaan Wild Pony Red (many locations)
- Peace Hotel, Shangri-La (both Jing’an & Pudong), Ritz Carlton Pudong carries Kanaan.
- All Sofitel brands in SH carry Kanaan and done to Orbis (eyes for kids) charity for each glass sold.
- Hakkasan (by the glass), Lost Heaven, Chez Maurice Bistro & Egg (when it does chef’s tastings) carry Kanaan.
- Pudao Wines
- Grace Vineyards has a Tmall store.
Do you like to drink wine, but haven’t been introduced to China’s international award-winning boutique wineries? Join us on a nighttime eating and drinking extravaganza, as we pair our authentic Night Eats foods with surprisingly delicious ‘Proudly Made in China’ wines. Everything you wanted to know about (good) Chinese wine, but were too afraid to ask! We’ve selected three award-winning wines for an adults-only local nighttime food and drink extravaganza. You’ve never tasted local wine like this before! More info.
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