With lunar New Year being celebrated next week, there’s a chance you might be having a Chinese meal over the next few days, but I wonder what you’re planning to drink with it. Wine-wise, at least, the same suspects – usually off-dry whites such as riesling and gewürztraminer – tend to get trotted out all the time, so I was particularly interested that this week’s guest contributor Amy Poon and her husband, Michael, who happens to work in the wine business, suggested some different options to go with her recipes.
With the wok-roasted char siu, they went for a Saint-Estèphe, suggesting Château Capbern (Laithwaites, 15%), Château Meyney (Majestic, 13.5%) “to balance the rich, smoky flavours of the pork” (though, at £28 and £35.99, respectively, neither is what you’d call cheap), or a traditional Loire red such as a chinon or bourgeuil. And for her father’s classic zha jiang noodles, they recommend a rosé champagne or an English sparkling wine such as the Woodchester Valley in today’s pick.
It depends, of course, on the type of Chinese food you’re eating. Supermarkets are still relatively conservative with their ready meals, so if you’re having sweet-and-sour chicken or chow mein, riesling might well be the answer, after all. But there are many dishes with which you could drink a red – the Chinese themselves are particularly keen on bordeaux, and in recent years have invested heavily in the region.
Given that a range of dishes may be on the table at the same time, I find it most helpful to look at the overall style of the food, rather than individual dishes. If you’re having dim sum or delicate seafood dishes, for example, crisp, dry whites such as pouilly-fumé or sparkling wines tend to work best. Fizz is also good with anything deep-fried such as spring rolls and prawn toast.
With more savoury, umami-rich dishes such as duck or braised meats, on the other hand, I’d definitely be inclined to drink a red. As well as bordeaux, I like a good pinot noir, although with the likes of beef in black bean sauce, I’d go for a bolder red such as a grenache.
Meanwhile, with spicy dishes – mapo tofu or a chilli-spiked hotpot, say – I’d be more likely to drink the very forgiving grüner veltliner below , or a lager. And if you’re on the last couple of days of dry January, the 0.5% Lucky Saint would hit the spot.
Another good alcohol-free option is sparkling tea, which I’ve mentioned before. I’ve just come across a delicious limited-edition one from Saicho called Eight Treasures. At £32.99 a bottle, it’s definitely not cheap, but it is made from a rare oolong and is beautifully packaged, so it’s ideal for a New Year gift.
Three wines to see in the new year
Woodchester Valley Brut Rosé 2018 £28.95 Woodchester Valley, 12.5%. Deliciously fruity, with a heady aroma of freshly picked strawberries and raspberries (so a good choice for Valentine’s Day, too).
Château Jouanin Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2019 £9 larger Co-ops, 13.5%. An appealingly soft, fruity bordeaux that would work really well with crispy duck pancakes.
Rainer Wess Grüner Veltliner Kremstal 2020 £9.95 The Wine Society, 12.5%. Austria’s grüner veltliner is a really versatile white that could take you through a whole range of dishes.