Wine and food pairing is no mean feat, and in some cases, even the most experienced sommelier can get confused or find it difficult to select the perfect wine match for a special menu. One of these eventualities is the combination of Chinese dishes and wine: due to the complexity and vastness of the Chinese cookbook, understanding which wine to choose can be a real challenge. So today we try to help you with some basic advice and information.

Chinese cuisine: a complex discipline

One of the first and most basic rules when pairing wine is proximity: choosing a local wine for a regional dish works wonderfully for countries where oenology is an integral part of the local gastronomic culture. However, when it comes to Chinese food, this rule cannot be quite followed. What to do?

First, it is worth analyzing Chinese cuisine: one of its characteristics is undoubtedly its incredibly varied offer of dishes. What we generally call “Chinese cuisine” is, in fact, a discipline divided into many regional sub-cuisines (just like the Italian one). Among these, there are four macro-categories:

  • Northern cuisine, also known as Mandarin style cuisine
  • Southern or Cantonese cuisine
  • Oriental cuisine, ie Sichuan and Yunnan cuisine
  • Western cuisine, namely that of Shanghai and the regions of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

Each of these regional cuisines is characterized by different ingredients, styles and cooking techniques: for example, the Mandarin cuisine features different types of pasta and lower consumption of rice and is delicate and light, while the Cantonese cuisine offers a wide choice of dishes based on fish, fruit and vegetables and a wide use of spices.

The difficulties of pairing wine and Chinese cuisine

The difficulty of wine and Chinese food pairing originates from this vast range of recipes.

There’s more: the flavours and combinations of spices, often used to create contrast, are unknown and new to the Western world (and, of course, for this reason even more interesting).

The Chinese themselves often use other drinks on the table, where you can find tea, fruit juices or broths and soups.
This does not mean they don’t like wine; actually, quite the opposite: Chinese drink especially red wine and today China is the biggest red wine market in the world.

What wines to pair with Chinese food?

But in conclusion, are there rules or tips to properly pair wine and Chinese food without ruining the menu? Sure.

As a general rule, choosing light and aromatic white wine is never wrong: for example a good natural Gewürztraminer or an organic Chardonnay for a general line. White is also the right choice for soups or rice dishes or noodles: a Müller-Thurgau or an Arneis is excellent.
Rose wines can also be an excellent choice, especially when the dishes on the menu are more full with fat.
Reds, on the other hand, can be a good match for roasts or stews; in this case, you can choose a delicious Pinot Noir or a Chianti.

Still undecided about the wine to pair with Chinese cuisine? No panic: within our catalogue of natural wines, you can find a selection of wines that go well with Asian food, just select it from the side menu!

Photo by Drew Taylor and Gusandy Maulana on Unsplash

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