Wine and Chinese Food – The Pairings That You Need to Know About

By now, everybody knows just how important it is to find the right Italian wine pairing if you’re going to enjoy a drink with your food.

And if you have a browse through the xtraWine blog, you’ll see plenty of articles that are dedicated to helping you pair wines with certain types of food.

But as we always say, the best pairing is whichever pairing you enjoy the most. We just aim to point you in the direction of some pairings that most agree are pretty good.

That brings us to the subject of today’s article – Chinese food.

This is a type of food that flies somewhat under the radar when it comes to wine pairings. That’s likely because wine hasn’t typically been something that Chinese consumers tend to drink. As such, many haven’t put much thought into the wines that pair with the succulent and spicy dishes that come out of the great nation.

But the times are changing.

There’s an ever-growing wine industry in China as the country begins to indulge in more and more of this wonderful drink. So, what better way to commemorate than then to come up with a couple of wine pairings for some popular Chinese dishes?

Pairing #1 – Dim Sum and Prosecco

These tasty dumplings have been a staple at Chinese restaurants for centuries. You take some prawns and chives, wrap it in a ball of dough and you have Dim Sum.

The dish itself provides an interesting combination of tastes. Biting into Dim Sum gives you the savoury flavour of the dough that’s suddenly infused with the almost sweet taste of the shrimp as you get to the centre.

The key here is that this isn’t an overly-rich or complex dish. As such, a red wine is out of the question. It will just overpower the savoury and slightly sweet flavours that you’re enjoying.

A sparkling white wine is the perfect accompaniment to Dim Sum. And whenever we talk about sparkling whites, Prosecco can never be too far from the conversation.

A dry Prosecco, in particular, complements this dish quite nicely. 

Think of Dim Sum as a morning dish and this pairing starts to make even more sense. It’s a perfect aperitif for the main course.

As a side note, sparkling white wines tend to go pretty well with fried dishes in general. And you’ll find plenty of those in the Chinese diet, which makes Prosecco a near-ever-present when pairing Chinese food with wine.

Pairing #2 – Chow Mein and Rosé

Speaking of fried dishes, you have the classic Chow Mein. These are noddles that are stir fried, often with a host of vegetables and a meat of some description. Chicken is the most popular but it’s not unknown to get pork or beef in a Chow Mein.

That, coupled with the richness of the oil used for frying, means that you need something with a little more body to it than your typical sparkling white wine.

A Rosé is the perfect compromise. These wines tend to have a touch more complexity that white wines without being as rich as red wines.

They also tend to have a lot of fruity notes, which lends them that bit of acidity that allows them to cut through the richness of the Chow Mein.

Pairing #3 – Peking Duck

Duck isn’t a particular common item on a lot of Western menus, which means that a lot of people may struggle to find the right pairing for the meat.

You may assume that a white wine is the way to go here. After all, duck is a type of poultry, which usually indicates that a white wine is the best choice.

However, that’s without taking the plum sauce that the duck gets covered in. This brings a richness to the dish that a white wine may not be able to cut through. Couple that with the surprising richness of the meat and you have a dish that calls for a red wine.

So, which one to go for?

Merlot is often seen as a great pairing for Peking Duck, so any wine that uses those grapes is a good choice. There are several Italian wines that use this French grape, with the Bolgheri Rosso DOC being our choice. With that, you get a rich mix of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah, which is more than enough to match up to the richness of this classic Chinese dish.

Pairing #4 – Kung Pao Chicken

Now, we’re getting into the spiciness that a lot of Chinese dishes are known for. Here, the richness of the dish isn’t the main issue that you’re going to have to contend with.

It’s the spiciness that can cause some clashes with traditional red wines.

This is where Italian white wines come into the picture. You’re looking for something that has a high enough acidity to deal with the spice, as well as being capable of cleansing your palate ready for the next bite.

There are plenty of options to choose from here, with off-whites generally being preferred.

But if we’re pressed to pick, we’re going to end up making an interesting choice – the Cortaccia Brenntal Gewurztraminer Riserva 2016.

The notes of peach and apple lend the wine the acidity it needs to compete with the spiciness of the dish. However, you cannot underestimate the importance of the mineral undertone that this wine offers.

That gives the wine a grounding that can help to quell the spiciness of the dish.

The Final Word

Of course, we’ve only looked at a small sample of classic Chinese dishes on this list. There are plenty more food and wine pairings that you may have to try and work out on your own.

As a general rule of thumb, sparkling white wines, such as Prosecco, work very well with the fried savoury and noodle dishes that are so prevalent in Chinese food. Red wines are great when the dish makes use of a rich sauce, with whites coming into the picture when you’re dealing with spiciness.


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