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Of champagne and dim sum: pairing Chinese cuisine with wine


As the burgeoning Chinese wine market grows exponentially, the pairing of wine with Chinese cuisine becomes an exciting new challenge for sommeliers. As with many Chinese trends, Hong Kong is the city where it starts, and sommeliers in this city with its many Michelin-starred restaurants are breaking ground in writing the Chinese wine handbook.

There are many challenges when pairing wine with Cantonese food. According to one top chef, 'Cantonese food focuses on sour, sweet, bitter, hot and salty. We have many different marinades and sauces. We also have different types of cooking – steaming, double-boiling, braised, stir fry, baking. The textures are complex.'

While their European counterparts have had decades to refine their pairing rules, Chinese chefs and sommeliers have to virtually write theirs overnight. Chinese dining culture, where there are no courses, but food is served simultaneously, also proves to be a challenge.

However, general rules are starting to emerge: 'Champagne's acidity and bubbles pair perfectly with dim sum, Burgundy's delicate tannins and complex nose are a sublime match for crispy chicken and lotus root chips, and the silky but structured tannins of a less-extracted, aged Bordeaux enhance the texture of braised pork belly.'

Freshness is key, and oaky wines are generally avoided. As the Cantonese food pairing guidelines are established, it should be interesting to see what the rest of China's regional cuisine holds in store for wine pairing.


Image by Kai Chan Vong.

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