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

This Facebook Live Video Wine Tasting above, we chat about pairing wine with our favourite Chinese dishes, from sweet and sour chicken to wontons and spring rolls.

You can click on the arrow above to play the video.

We’re joined by guest winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers of Benjamin Bridge Winery to help us celebrate the Chinese New Year.

You’ll find the most recent live video wine tasting at the top of the timeline here:

We taste every Sunday evening at 6 pm eastern so add us to your calendar and grab a glass of wine.

Click on the icons for “Share” and “Like” on the page above to get notified when we go live.

If you’d like to read 136 comments, or make a comment yourself, visit:

Here’s a sampling of lively discussion from our tasting …

Lori Kilmartin · 41:47 I was worried the Nova would be too sweet Jean-Benoit but it sounds like it is offset with a good dose of acidity. I am going to go back and get a bottle!!!
Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 38:52 I would say Medium Dry, like you said, especially from a sensory standpoint. On paper, we’re looking at 50g/l of residual sugar, which is not insignificant, but still 1/2 of many Moscato:)

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 35:38 Lori: yes, much less pressure. a Champagne would have about 6 BAR of pressure, while Nova has only 1.5. There is just a touch of effervescence in Nova, for texture and vibrancy…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 30:47 True that Nova is best when enjoyed in its youth, but because the acidity and C02 are high, the wine will remain crisp and sound over time. Our first Nova, from 2006, is showing great !


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 40:46 Yes, the profile of Nova 7 itself is a combination of sweetness (fruit/aromatics) and acidity. Therefore, sweet and sour dishes could not be better suited for the wine….


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 21:18 MY favorite grape variety is Chardonnay. At Benjamin Bridge, we mostly work with Chardonnay for our traditional method sparkling wines…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 36:52 “Nova” = two reasons: (1) in homage to Nova Scotia – as we knew this wine could only be made in Nova Scotia with its unique surroundings and (2) for “new” as the wine was pioneering a new style of wine.


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 11:17 AS for the profile the Nova 7; it is just as unique as the Bay of Fundy is in the natural world…We get the freshness from the moderating effect of the Bay…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 33:17 On “7”: 2007 was the first commercial vintage, and 7 was originally a variation on vintage designation. Yes, we are celebrating Nova’s 10th anniversary this year!


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 15:02 In a nutshell, the main aromatic contributors are the NY muscat and Ortega, while we derive the freshness and electric qualities from L’acadie…


Sam Hauck · 40:21 Yes, Siegerrebe was developed in Germany. It is a cross of Madeleine Angevine and Gewürz. Today it is found in Germany, England, BC, NS and Washington State. Not sure about Ontario.


Sam Hauck · 21:02 The VIWF runs from Feb 12 to the 18th with many events through the week. The main consumer tastings run from the 16th-18th. I look forward to meeting Jean-Benoit.


Carol Maskus · 8:47 Natalie, I read an article with a Chinese sommelier who said that Chinese people like to pair spicy food with tannic red wines, because the tannins enhance the heat. Sorry I missed you live. I was having video issues.


Alex Ballesteros · 40:25 This signature dish in Sichuan cuisine is ideal for both occasions. It’s perfect for the cold weather – the fiery red chilli gets our blood circulation going, yet it’s also a great appetite stimulant when the weather gets hot.


Lise Charest Gagne · 45:13 Jean – im learning so much here but i like anything drinkable – i got a bottle of this NOVA put aside – very excited


Lise Charest Gagne · 39:43 We make homemade won ton soup with Napa cabbage and ginger


Lise Charest Gagne · 33:49 any plans on the 2007 bottle if such a big anniversary?



Lori Kilmartin · 33:48 Jean-Benoit – I was looking at your sparkling in LCBO – it’s got a pop type cap on it – is that because it’s not under as much pressure as a usual sparkling?


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 52:13 Yes, we have a wine club opened to all Canadians!


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 45:31 sounds like you’re describing a mullet: serious in the front, party in the back…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 43:58 LISE: drinkability is arguably the greatest quality to look for in any wine…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 23:00 Usually Moscato’s are a bit more sugar-centric, while Nova 7 relies primarily on freshness and drinkability!


Floyd Curtis · 47:25 Honestly, if I had to choose, Alsatians are the best choice for Chinese. And yes, the muskrat was a joke. Sorry.😀


Floyd Curtis · 43:59 My experience having travelled to China many times is that they tend to serve domestic Chinese reds with everything . Enough said.


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 17:07 artisan fact: This year Nova 7 is the result of 100% indigenous fermentations!


Floyd Curtis · 40:33 How about a viognier to beat back some of the spicier southwestern Chinese dishes


Lynn van der Linde · 18:19 Nova Scotia has a beautiful Maritime climate for wine! Jean-Benoit, what’s your favourite grape variety?


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 13:45 Nova 7 is very much a blend. There are about 15 varietals involved!


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 9:30 It will be a challenge indeed to find Nova in CA. We’re working on distribution right now…


Sam Hauck · 22:55 For Jean-Benoit – at the recent BC Best Sommelier 2017 competition, all three finalists recommended Benjamin Bridge sparkling with a first course dinner offering.


Jane Staples · 39:29 Ah, honey-garlic chicken balls or shrimp with lobster sauce from Ottawa’s Golden Palace Restaurant-YUM!


Sam Hauck · 16:22 Looking to trying some NS wines at the Vancouver International Wine Fest. This year Canada is being featured.


Alex Ballesteros · 16:10 Jean-Benoit do you have specific vineyard/grape sources you stay with when making your wine?


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 27:31 Lise: don’t keep the bottle in the water, it would affect optimal serving temperature…


Lise Charest Gagne · 42:46 she hasnt dumped the NOVA yet its a big sign


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 42:50 Lori: worry not, our cool climate has your back



Lori Kilmartin · 38:45 Cantonese Chow Mein!


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 53:52 Our terroir makes a mean Sauvignon Blanc


Lise Charest Gagne · 3:03 Tempura Veg and shrimp


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 41:42 SAM: THERE IS SIEGERREBE IN THE NOVA BLEND


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 53:04 Natalie: time for FREESTYLE


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 50:36 yes we do…


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 47:29 How about a juicy Grenache?


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 26:07 SAM: that is great to hear. #humbled
Like · Reply · January 22 at 7:27pm


Jean-Benoit Deslauriers · 5:18 SO I’M HERE :)


Jane Staples · 46:25 my life’s mission-comparing wine and food side-by-side!


Alex Ballesteros · 30:16 leads me to ask Jean if the blend change?


Alex Ballesteros · 39:09 i love Shui Zhu Yu!


Dave Head · 51:29 benjamin bridge, we are members


Jane Staples · 8:19 like a Nova Scotia July morning


Jane Staples · 7:31 very good with lobster chowder


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 [email protected].

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

Here’s a link to all of the Benjamin Bridge wines that I’ve reviewed on the site including the Nova 7 that we discussed.

Here’s where you can joined the Benjamin Bridge Wine Club:

Here are the others wines we tasted:

Batasiolo Bosc D’la Rei Moscato D’asti 2015, D.O.C.G., Piedmont, Italy: Pretty, floral and zesty Italian frizzante. Light fizz, off-dry with some clementine notes. Pair with Chinese dishes. Drink: 2015 – 2017 28175 5.5% M 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100. January 2017. Best Value Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Wachenheimer Riesling Auslese 1998, Pfalz, Germany: An extraordinary long-lived German Riesling. Made in the sweet style of Auslese, this is now showing caramelized aromas of flavour of burnt toffee. Lovely. Drink: 2000 – 2020 251479 11.5% S 375 mL $43.52 Score: 92/100. January 2017. Top Rated Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Cave Spring Cellars Indian Summer Late Harvest Riesling 1997, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada: Liquid gorgeous year after year, Cave Spring delivers this late harvest Riesling for our drinking pleasure. Apricot peach blossom. Perfect for angel food cake and fruit-based desserts. The Riesling grapes for this dessert wine are picked later in the fall, well after those from the dry style table wine. The result is much more concentrated flavours and fruit sweetness like apricot preserves. Pair this terrific wine with blue cheeses and toasted almonds. Riesling food pairings: spice cake, crème brûlée, fruit-based desserts, pastries, fresh field berries in cream. Drink: 2000 – 2017 415901 12.5% S 375 mL $24.95 Score: 91/100. January 2017. Top Rated Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Reif Estate Winery Vidal Select Late Harvest 2006, V.Q.A. Ontario, Canada: Lovely notes of overripe peach, apricot and passionfruit with terrific balancing acidity. Revel in its plush depths. Vidal Select Late Harvest food pairings: creamy cheeses, trifle, peach melba, chocolate cake. 282855 13% S 375 mL $19.95 Score: 88/100. January 2017. Best Value Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Bagatelle Muscat De Saint Jean De Minervois 2005, Languedoc, France: A floral bite like Steel Magnolias — those strong southern women ;) Apricot blossom and peach sunshine with a burnt almond back bite. Perfect for Asian fare. Drink: 2007 – 2017 29967 15.1% M 500 mL $10.95 Score: 88/100. January 2017. Best Value Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Alvear’s Pedro Ximenez De Anada 2014, Spain Drink: 2016 – 2025 16% 375 mL $20.00 January 2017. Full Review Add to Shopping Cart

Puklus Cellar Szamorodni Sweet Tokaji 2006, Tokay, Hungary: The 2006 vintage now shows teriary aromas of bottle aging such as caramelized toffee. You can find more recent vintages displaying sweeting marmalade character in stores now. Tokaji food pairings: fruit custard desserts. Drink: 2041 – 1954 179374 13.5% XD 500 mL $18.95 Score: 88/100. January 2017. Best Value Dessert Wine Full Review Add to Shopping Cart



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