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.
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.
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 www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher.