Monday, May 1, 2017

The Chinese Puzzle

Before his retirement a few years ago, wine salesman, Henry Leung, had quite a following here whenever he scheduled a wine tasting.  Henry was a former New York City restaurateur who was once featured prominently in the Wine Spectator magazine for his abilities to pair wines with Chinese cuisine.  That Spectator feature made it painfully clear that pairing wines with Asian food was not a strong suit for most of us westerners.

California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the popular go-to's for most of us, really don't seem to work with Asian foods.  Henry and a lot of other wine guys opted for the unctuous Gewurztraminer in particular because of its spiciness.  Others of us liked the idea of light dry or off-dry whites in general for our Chinese fare.  Last fall Lettie Teague fleshed out the problem in the October 8-9, 2016 Wall Street Journal offering several new options for creative pairings.

First of all, Teague states what we already know - there are actually eight different Chinese cuisines so it helps to know what we're up against!  Moreover, "a single dish can flood the palate with sweet, spicy, salty, and sour flavors, and sometimes, all at once!"  And the sauces that usually offer the best indicator for wine selection in European cuisine work just the opposite with Chinese foods.  Then on top of everything else, if you add soy sauce or other condiments, well, you might as well just grab a beer!

In general Teague feels red wines don't really work with Chinese food although lighter reds like Italian Dolcetto and French Beaujolais and regional Burgundies may have a chance because of there finesse. Big reds (and oaky Chardonnays) would just clobber the stuff.

Teague also defers to dry Rose as an acceptable choice although not with spicier fare.  She likes Rieslings (both dry and sweet) and other light whites with the spicy stuff.  But here's the go-to that really resonates with her - Champagne!  "Bubbles help clear the palate (like beer), counteracting the salt and the heat of the spice."  She says a sparkling rose may be the best of both worlds!

So why this post now?  Because we're loaded with stacks of sparklers in the store that are delectable bargains AND we have shelves of the primo stuff too.  After all, it is the season!

This Thursday at 5pm Tommy Basham joins us for a tasting of Spanish wines.  Please join us for that one.  

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