If you’re celebrating Chinese new year with a takeaway then Peter Ranscombe has some carry-out suggestions.
ASKING “Which wine goes with Chinese food?” is like asking “Which wine goes with European food?”
We sometimes forget that China is a vast country – 1.4 billion people are spread across 3.7 million square miles, meaning the UK’s landmass could fit into China about 40 times.
With that massive area also comes a massive selection of different cultures, cuisines, ingredients and dishes and, while our local Chinese takeaways aren’t going to cover all those bases, their menus will reflect the diversity of styles on offer.
I’ve picked out a selection of dishes and wines that I always enjoy together, either cutting through richer dishes with fresher acidity or trying to pair sweetness with sweetness without getting too cloying.
Dishes – and their styles – will vary from outlet to outlet, but hopefully these suggestions will give you a good starting point for a carry-out to accompany your carry-out.
THE DISH: Sweet and sour chicken
THE WINE: Crisp Cava
I love sparkling wine with Chinese takeaway. I’m a creature of habit, so sweet and sour chicken Cantonese style is always in the delivery, along with either a duck or ham and chicken fried rice and some chips. Stop laughing. I love those crisp yet soggy wee chips. Sparkling wine has become my favourite pairing for my favourite dishes, and I loved the Contevedo Organic Cava (£6.99, Aldi), which is a steal for good Cava, let alone an organic example. Crisp acidity to cut through the gooey orange sauce and concentrated red apple, cinnamon and brown sugar flavours to boot.
THE DISH: Duck spring rolls
THE WINE: Quacking pinot
Duck and pinot noir is a pairing that really flies and the 2017 Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir (2016: £32.99, Noel Young Wines) soared during the Mornington Peninsula masterclass at Wine Australia’s annual trade tasting in London earlier this week. There were hints of five-spice in among the light floral and wood smoke notes on the nose, which belied its concentrated red plum, red cherry and raspberry jam flavours on the palate. Its concentrated fruit was wrapped in tangy acidity. Many of the matches used in last November’s Wine to Dine column – when duck was the star ingredient – would work well too.
THE DISH: Char siu pork
THE WINE: Bright Beaujolais
There’s something about that pinky-red colour around the rim of char siu pork that I just absolutely adore. And it tends to influence my wine matches too. Beaujolais is a great choice, especially a ripe example like the 2018 Henry Fessy Beaujolais Villages (£12.50 Winebuyers.com) with its blackcurrant, black cherry and spun sugar aromas, with a touch of candyfloss. It’s classic gamay – fresh and fruit, with plenty of raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. Pinot could make a perfect pairing too.
THE DISH: Szechuan prawn, chicken or pork
THE WINE: Fire-quenching Gewurztraminer
A classic match for fierier Szechuan dishes is gewurztraminer, with a wee bit of off-dry sweetness and a more rounded body to balance to spice. Alsace is where I head for my gewurztraminer and the 2015 Cave de Turckheim Terroirs d’Alsace Sables & Galets Gewurztraminer (£12.25, All About Wine) is an old reliable favourite. Plenty of fruity peach, grape and lemon sherbet notes allow it to hold its own with full-flavoured foods, without compromising on the fresh acidity. Delicious.
THE DISH: Beef in a black bean sauce
THE WINE: Life is a cabernet
It’s a dish that will vary a lot between Chinese takeaways, but it’s another firm favourite for me, and one for which I’ll often switch to a red wine. Get the tannins ripe enough – like in the 2015 Wynns The Sidings Cabernet Sauvignon (£12, Co-op) – and cabernet can be an ideal match. Head for the New World, especially areas like this example from Coonawarra in Australia, and you’ll be rewarded. The Wynns’ bright acidity and minty, dark chocolate and blackberry flavours are delicious on their own too.
THE DISH: Whatever else you order
THE WINE: All-rounder riesling
If you’re looking for a good all-rounder that can pair with a range of dishes then riesling would be my go-to guy. A slightly off-dry version – like the 2018 Vidal Estate Riesling (£10.27, The Drink Shop), which has a very modest eight grams of sugar per litre of wine – can handle spicy foods. The secret is to get one with fresh acidity so that it can also cut through anything cloying. The Vidal’s crisp freshness comes from its location in Marlborough in New Zealand, the spiritual home to New World sauvignon blanc.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/