The celebration of the Chinese New Year is upon us. Just across the Pacific Ocean, communities in Asia celebrate their biggest holiday of the year. The festivities will last typically two weeks long. In a none covid year, usually there will be multiple family gatherings and lavish meals. According to a recent survey commissioned by Vinexpo, Chinese red wine consumption is now the largest in the world, surpassing France and Italy. Much of this will also influence how Chinese food will be paired with wine. In the spirit of the new year let's march to this year's lineup of wines to pair with your Chinese inspired dishes.
One of the more recent trend is for families to gather around several hot pots filled with different soup broth, spices and ingredients. Chinese hot pot party is as important as a social event as it is a meal, where friends and family gather and cook around a common pot while chatting and sipping wine or beer. Grenache based wine is ideal as it has the flexibility to pair with a variety of meats, vegetable and Asian spices. Rosés are also ideal for pairing with tomato based soups.
Taking Success to the Highest Level
Turnip Cake is a traditional snack/dish eaten on New Year's that is composed of a flour mixture and white radish chopped into strips with diced dry shrimp, mushrooms and Chinese sausage. The cake is steamed and then pan fried until gold brown. This slightly crispy and savory cake is best with some fine bubbles such as Champagne or Cremant. The Chinese pronunciation of the word "cake" sounds like the word "higher". Eating this dish symbolizes that you will achieve the next level of success in the New Year.
Reunion and Wealth
One of the most popular dishes is also the most favored during the Chinese New Year. Dumplings are very traditional and often the family members will get together in advance to make them. The round crescent shape symbolizes golden nuggets (ancient Chinese currency), thus eating them will bring you wealth. At the Bottle Shop, our tradition is to pair our dumplings with an elegant white wine. Go for Riesling, Pinot Gris or a new world Pinot Noir. The aromas and the pork juice from the dumpling paired with the salty/vinegary dipping sauce works magic with lighter styled wines.
Oodles of Longevity
Noodles are also a typical dish enjoyed for Chinese New Year. The long stringy noodles represent the longevity of life and prosperity. Typically the noodles may be stir fried with seafood and green vegetables (pair with a Pinot Noir), or even in a beef braised soup base. Try Beef Noodle with a Grenache Syrah based wine to bring out the anise and pepper flavors.
Abundance of Luck
Steamed whole fish has a special meaning due to the pronunciation of the word "fish", which sounds like "surplus" or "abundance". You always want to have a surplus of luck or wealth for the New Year. It is important that the fish is prepared whole in order to take on the traditional meaning. In addition, leave the last bite on the plate to indicate that you really have surplus of luck for the New Year. A subtle white would be a shining star with this type of dish.With all the dishes and multiple days of celebration, it is important to add some tea at the end of your meal. Much like Europeans' tradition of finishing a big meal with espresso, Chinese people will have tea to help with digestion and cleansing of the palate.