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How do you match wine with Chinese food?

Big Bunny

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Good wine and good food are natural companions. Chinese cuisine is the best (yes) in the world - Western wine has become the perfect blend of art and science.

What is/are the best way(s) to pair these treasures?

A hearty Shiraz is wonderful with a good Peking-style beef stew. A crisp Chablis will enhace a stir-fried scallop dish. Tavel with pork = heaven.

Or maybe a good, crisp "chard" with the whole meal?

What do you do?


Food is all about history and geography.

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I would like to say that Chinese food it self is far too complex when you start to consider all the diversity of regional styles in such a vast territoy. Secondly, it is very easy to find a style of Chinese food that rivals McDonald's. For this type of food any "international style" produced wine will do, just like a beer would, when comum sense is applied, how can you enjoy a delicate dish with a Shiraz from Australia or a spicy black-bean sauce beef with a dry and acidic white whine?

My experiences with well elaboreted authentic Chinese food has been with:

Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Scheurebe, Pinot Gris and Albarino for whites, and for reds, Southern Rhone, Rosso de Montefalco (from Umbria), a fine Rioja, and grenache/sirah based wines from the Southwest of France. One must consider the level of spiciness of the dish, nothing like sugar to balance spices, and nothing like German wines to create the magic of fruit/mineral extractions with a refreshing acidity with complex aromas to complement aromatic and rich Chinese food.

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Good wine and good food are natural companions.

That's certainly the case for many Western wines and Western foods. But I wonder if it always holds true for other cuisines.

A Chinese wine-loving friend of mine once organized a dinner around several top French wines from his cellar. The meal was held at one of the city's fancier, if somewhat Europeanized, Chinese restaurants, and the wine-food pairings were closely coordinated with the chef, who had trained at Maxim's in Paris. I wasn't surprised to find that in nearly every instance the chef had carefully chosen the ingredients and really toned down the seasonings to avoid overpowering the wines. Even then, a couple of the more subtle wines — a fine old Musigny, for example — got steamrollered. So, I think the first rule (which must, of course, admit exceptions) is this: if you insist on serving wine with Chinese food, choose robust, vibrant wines.

The Chinese tendancy to serve many different dishes at the same time also presents a challenge to the would-be wine-pairer. Often the best solution is to provide each diner with two glasses: one red wine, one white wine, which they drink according to the dish they're eating. If forced to choose one bottle to go with a wide range of dishes, I generally reach for an off-dry, high-acid white like a chenin blanc from the Loire (Vouvray, Coteaux-du-Layon, etc.), riesling from Alsace (Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht) or Germany or grüner veltliner from Austria, and I don't rule out sparklers.

But just because two things are great on their own, it doesn't mean they're necessarily great together. For my part, I usually prefer beer.

edit: clarity

Edited by carswell (log)
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Then there's that old adage -- when in doubt, Pinot Noir; it goes with everything.

I'm not kidding either. A good balanced Pinot is the perfect food wine. I've had it with everything from foie gras to popcorn (sneak it into a theatre! It's great!). It goes well with spicy food and mild food. And I have often enjoyed a good Pinot with all sorts of Chinese food...

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Thanks for starting this thread Big Bunny!

Interesting ideas for wines. Tea doesn't do it for me, at least not for dinner, and beer is not quite right either. It must be wine and I know in my heart it can work. :laugh: It'll just take some experimentation.

I've been thinking about trying Pinots (they're becoming a favorite of mine) when I'm not sure what to drink with something.

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At home on the few occasions that we cook Chinese, we usually drink a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Out, especially with the limited wine selections in the Chinese restaurants of our area, we almost always go with beer.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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If you are like me, when eating in a group, you'll order a chicken, beef and pork or seafood dish together. That makes the pairing rather difficult. Often times, I vary the spiciness in the dishes I order too.

I'm going to agree with Carolyn's suggestion to try a good Pinot Noir. They usually won't overpower delicate foods and have enough back bone to stand up to the more flavorful dishes.

A good white wine alternative would be a good Fruity/Grassy Sauvignon Blanc. The tropical fruit flavors often associated with SB could be very complimentary to some chinese dishes.

Andy Szmidt

WineMiles.com - great wines! low prices!

The early bird may get the worm. But it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.

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With aromatic cuisine, I like aromatic wines. For whites this means riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot blanc, arneis. For reds, this means pinot noir and cab franc. And, of course, Champagne can never be ruled out.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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With aromatic cuisine, I like aromatic wines.  For whites this means riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot blanc, arneis.  For reds, this means pinot noir and cab franc.  And, of course, Champagne can never be ruled out.

What he said.

And what Carolyn said too. Someone once described Pinot Noir as "liquid chicken" because it goes with everything. It pretty much really does.

The only thing original I could add to this discussion is that you should pair Chinese food with wine the same way you'd pair any other food with wine. Consider the sauce, consider the "weightiness" of the dish and find a comparable "weightiness" in the wine, and consider the underlying secondary flavors in the wine. An earthy Pinot Noir compliments dishes with mushrooms because there's a similar aromatic component. A crisp and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc compliments seafood because LEMON compliments seafood, etc. And don't be drinking one of those high alcohol content Turley Zinfandels with a Szechuan dish because the alcohol will just make the spices seem even more fiery and ruin the balance of the dish. Your mouth will be on fire and absolutely nothing will taste good anymore.

If you were cooking two identical pieces of Dover Sole, but had one in a delicate cream sauce and one blackened Cajun style you wouldn't expect the same wine to match both dishes, would you? Carry this logic to the next level and you should be fine. :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Thank you, everyone.

I love to cook, eat and serve Chinese food - usually have a micro brew - but love wine too. I don't have a cellar, in the serious sense, but keep a dozen-or-so favorites on hand. Often, the food will "suggest" a wine, and the pairing will be very good.

Unfortunately, I haven't kept notes on the various discoveries I have made, but many of them have been suggested here - along with lots of ideas I haven't tried.

One could develop their own sense of matches by keeping six or eight of the suggestions here on hand, and then pairing them with meals based on intuition - intuition which will grow with experience (i.e. trial and error.)

I know of two books with suggestions:

Susanna Foo's "Chinese Cuisine" has a section of menus with suggested wines, including some creative ideas for "kir."

Ken Hom's "East Meets West Cuisine" has a menu section with wine suggestions by Darrell Corti. Admittedly, this is food in-between Western and Chinese, but it contains a good exploration of principles.


Food is all about history and geography.

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One could develop their own sense of matches by keeping six or eight of the suggestions here on hand, and then pairing them with meals based on intuition - intuition which will grow with experience (i.e. trial and error.)

I know of two books with suggestions:

Susanna Foo's "Chinese Cuisine" has a section of menus with suggested wines, including some creative ideas for "kir."

Ken Hom's "East Meets West Cuisine" has a menu section with wine suggestions by Darrell Corti. Admittedly, this is food in-between Western and Chinese, but it contains a good exploration of principles.

I love cookbooks to have wine suggestions with their recipes. This is so helpful for a novice like me. And the good suggestions here. I tend to not like the sweeter wines so stay away from Rieslings and the like although once in awhile they're fine. But I like the idea of Pinot as it's becoming one of my favorites (liquid chicken :laugh: ) and whites like Sauv Blanc. I did have a Pinot Gris this week with my chinese meal and it was perfect. That made me surprised, epiphany worthy, as I hadn't had good luck in the past with wine so was thinking it was hopeless.

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I did have a Pinot Gris this week with my chinese meal and it was perfect. That made me surprised, epiphany worthy, as I hadn't had good luck in the past with wine so was thinking it was hopeless.

I think that there are lots of surprises like that. Matching wines with Chinese food is a very under-explored "ballpark."

Lately I have been on a Macanese/Portuguese cooking "kick." The Portuguese vinhos verdes look very promising with Chinese food, but I have only begun to explore that.


Food is all about history and geography.

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More often than not I find myself not drinking wine with Chinese food, usually opting for a beer, or even a glass of milk. A lot of the Chinese food I like is on the spicy side, and sometime I am afraid that might overwhelm a wine.

Sometimes I will drink wine though, and if I do, it is usually an inexpensive, simple, refreshing white. Pierre Sparr's Alsace "One" comes to mind as one I have consumed with Chinese in the past.

All the best,


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  • 1 month later...

When this discussion was new, I asked a local merchant to recommend a wine to go with Chinese food. Among other things, I got a bottle of Bonny Doon "Pacific Rim Dry Riesling."

Over the weekend I had a chance to try this with a simple Chinese meal. The dishes were slightly "unbalanced" - a stir-fry and two steamed dishes, but there was a good variety of flavors to taste with the wine.

These recipes are all from Grace Young's new Book "Breath of a Wok:"

Stir-fried Corn and Green Beans

Silken Tofu Steamed with XO Sauce

Chicken Legs Steamed with Fermented Tofu

It is well known that a Riesling goes with spicy food, but Chinese cuisine has many complex flavors. In this case there is the "fishyness" of XO, and the "earthyness" of the fermented tofu. The wine was good with the meal, mostly by not being too challenging. In fact, though, as carswell has mentioned no wine will go equally well with a varied spread of Chinese dishes. The XO seemed to "want" something crisper. I am still pondering the chicken dish. I love fermented tofu, and the sauce here is wonderful and deep - I have to experiment. A good South American red might work, but balance would be tricky.

I finished the meal with an adaptation of Monica Bhide's kulfi - substituted minced crystallized ginger for cardamom, and garnished with orange blossom water. I sipped the last of the wine with this. Somehow, the wine seemed to "fight" with the orange blossom after-taste, but mostly it went well with the whole meal.


Food is all about history and geography.

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