Pairing Wine with Spicy, Sweet and Sour Dishes for Chinese New Year and Beyond

Asian Miso ramen noodles with egg, tofu and enoki in bowls on gray wooden background

Whether you’re celebrating the Chinese New Year, or love Chinese fare year round, here are tips on pairing those dishes with wine.

North Americans now enjoy a much broader and diverse fare that often includes a wide range of ethnic cuisines.

The challenge?

Although there are a number of spicy entrees in Chinese cuisine, there are also many with sweet and sour nuances, so choose a wine that can handle both.


We’re celebrating the Chinese New Year by pairing wines with sweet and sour pork, orange chicken, wontons, dumplings and spring rolls.  

Join us for our Sunday Sipper Club Live Video Wine Tasting 

Sunday at 6 pm eastern

We’ll also have guest winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers of Benjamin Bridge WineryI can’t think of a better wine than his Nova 7 to pair with Chinese dishes ;)


Wontons: is a type of Chinese dumpling that is made with a dough-skin wrapper and stuffed with beef, pork or shrimp, that the edges are pressed together by fingertips and then deep-fried.

Chow Mein: stir-fried noodles, chow meaning “fried” and mein meaning “noodles.” Chow mein can be served on it’s own as a vegetarian dish or with meat such as beef, chicken or shrimp. There are two types of noodles: soft, which are flat noodles steamed, and crispy, which are long, rounded noodles that are fried.

Fried rice: steamed rice that has also been stir-fried in a wok and, often, mixed with eggs, vegetables and meat.

Spring Rolls: rolled appetizers in cylindrical pastry wrappers that are filled with various meats, such as pork, or vegetarian ingredients, such as cabbage. They are often pan-fried or deep-fried and crispy.
Peking Duck: a Beijing duck dish that’s roasted in an oven and has thin, crispy skin.
Sweet and Sour Pork: pork that is stir-fried and then a sauce of a light vinegar and sugar mixture that yields the sweet and sour flavours is added to the wok before serving.

Hot and Sour Soup: Chinese soup made from day various meats with bamboo shoots, tofu, lily buds, wood ear fungus in a pork blood broth. Its heat comes from red or white peppers, and the sour flavour from vinegar.
Kung Pao Chicken or Shrimp: is also known as Gong Bao or Kung Po. This is is a very spicy stir-fry chicken or shrimp dish that often also includes peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers. The Sichuan version from south-western China has Sichuan peppercorns, which gives the dish is famous spicy heat.
In North America, the dish is often made from diced marinated chicken that is stir-fried in orange juice, ginger, garlic, chicken broth, sugar, cooking oil, corn starch, salt and pepper.
Got one to add? Please let me know at

My favourite is off-dry Riesling from either Canada or Germany because it has a touch of sweetness, but it also has the acidity to go with the sour element in Asian cuisine.

Riesling, which can go from bone dry to intensely sweet, and often provides just the right amount of sweetness to pair with the hot/sour/salty/bitter flavours of spices.

My adage is that “sweet meets heat” and an off-dry or sweet wine can soften the perception of heat on the palate. Riesling has great acidity and ripe fruit flavors like peaches, limes and pears.

It prolongs the pleasure of the first bite of food, but then gives you a different sensation each time you sip it and go back for another bite.

A wine that’s bone dry is going to taste bitter with Chinese food. Low-alcohol white sparkling wines which have a little sweetness also work.

What to drink with kung pao or a cilantro-based dish?

Is Gewurztraminer your default wine with all spicy dishes from Chinese to Indian to Pad Thai? That makes sense as the name translates to “spice wine.”

It’s got an aromatic intensity (full of rose petals and litchi) and stands up well to a spicy meal. It is not a wimpy wine.

Choose wines that are not aged in oak and don’t have large amounts of tannins. Tannins actually accentuate heat and salt.

High-alcohol wines with spicy foods will make your mouth taste like it is on fire.

So does that mean red wines are totally out of the picture?

Of course not.

You can definitely try a wine that contrasts with spices, like a plush red that is ripe and fruity or some soft Italian reds.

For wine drinkers who prefer reds over white, try one that is not high in alcohol or tannins with spicy foods. Go with fruity low-tannin reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Gamay or even Zinfandel.

More tips on pairing wine and spicy food.

Best 20 Wines for Spicy Dishes.


My Top 10 Wine Matches for Herbs and Spices

1. Caraway and Marsanne
2. Cilantro and Riesling
3. Tarragon and Chardonnay
4. Curry Powder and Syrah
5. Rosemary and Merlot
6. Dill and Sauvignon Blanc
7. Saffron and Pinot Noir
8. Mint and Pinot Grigio
9. Coriander and Rioja
10. Anise/Fennel and Viognier

For wine pairings with 48 herbs and spices, visit

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