From the Experts: Pairing California Wines with Chinese Cuisine

Chateau Lafight from the blog, Grape Wall of China

On Thursday, September 27, Asia Society Northern California will host a panel discussion about the challenges and best practices of exporting California wines to China. Our speakers have decades of experience in the wine industry – from grape to bottle and beyond.

Western wine drinkers and non-wine drinkers alike are likely to be familiar with basic pairings of food and wine: reds go with red meat, whites go with light meats. But the question of which California wines pair well with Chinese food is a relatively new one. We asked our panelists to weigh in:

From Jay Behmke, Managing Director of Yao Family Wines:
Any dish with beef or duck would be a natural pairing with Yao Family Wines.

From Mark Bright, Partner and Sommelier, Saison:
When choosing a wine to pair with spicy Chinese food, such as Sichuan or Hunan, selecting a wine with lower alcohol content is very important. For non-spicy foods, I love Chardonnays and Burgundies with dumplings…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

From Jack Duan, Founder and CEO of Gliding Eagle:
Pair Sichuan spicy dishes with California Syrah (it’s bolder and fruity in taste).  Some prefer Riesling or Gewurztraminer (for their sweeter and fruity palate). Match Cantonese lighter dishes with Sauvignon Blanc (crisp and refreshing).

From David Duckhorn, President of Via Pacifica Selections:
Cantonese dishes tend to be more delicate and go well with the brighter wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Beijing cuisine has more sauce, but is not as spicy, so pair well with un-oaked Chardonnay and Merlot. Shanghainese food is also saucier, and goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sichuan food is hot; pair with rounded, fatter wines, like full-bodied Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and/or Zinfandel (but not high alcohol ones).

From Tempe Reichardt, Founder and CEO of The California Place:
Keep in mind that Chinese food is usually served “banquet style” with several courses served at the same time.  In order to pair the right wines with the food, a consumer would have to have several varieties and styles of wine open at the same time.  Many styles of Chinese cuisine are spicy presenting additional challenges to pairing the food with wine. My advice is to drink what tastes best to the individual.  As the Chinese wine market matures the Chinese wine consumer will learn what appeals to the him/her the most with specific dishes.  And hey, are there actually any “rules” about these things?  Wine is for pleasure, so I feel the best advice is to just enjoy it!

From Loren(zo) Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards:
Two of my favorite pairings are Peking Duck with Napa Merlot or Trefethen Dragon's Tooth, and Spicy Hunan or Sichuan cuisine with Dry Riesling.

Join us on Thursday, September 27 to hear more from our panelists about their own experiences exporting California wines to China. This program will feature a wine reception with selections from the speakers' cellars. For more information, click here.