SPANISH WINES FOR THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
Fortuitously (like the cookies?) this year’s Chinese New Year fell on the weekend of one of the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programmes on Total FM. It was an obvious sign – clearly, the Rooster in the sky was telling me to taste, live on-air, Chinese Cuisine paired with appropriate Spanish Wine!
Now, there’s a thought – Spanish wines which complement Chinese food (and vice versa, of course, as this is the true nature of wine/food pairings). Well, yes, it is a thought, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be one that has occurred to so many Chinese restaurants situated on the Costas of Spain! And I mean that. It really is sad that, in my experience (in yours too? Please let me know.), the wine lists, at least in the Chinese restaurants in which I’ve dined during the 20 years, are not in any way designed to partner the cuisine. Lamentable, is a more appropriate word.
There is a general theme, and a couple of styles of wine, or grape varieties that are regularly recommended. And, it’s a higher end restaurant that believes in the quality of Chinese cuisine, there will be appropriate wines. However, if the restaurant is a downtown, down at heel joint with no passion for the food, serving poor quality dishes for what is believed to be the ‘western palate’, then you can forget the wine, don’t bother!
But this latter ‘style’ of Chinese restaurant is actually not what all the Costas’ Chinese restaurants are about. There are those which are genuinely trying to reflect all that’s good about Chinese cuisine – and my hat goes off to all such establishments. Bravo! But, you are missing a trick! Your restaurant will be so much better and far more popular, if you could please make an effort to list wines that actually go with your food!
Here endeth the lesson, and please, readers, if you are friendly with your nearest Chinese restaurant, show them this article and tell them that if they’d like me to, I can help!
So, which wines did we taste on The Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme at Chinese New Year? Well, firstly let’s remember that there are, of course, many different styles of Chinese food. Styles, which would be, in a perfect world, paired with dish-specific wines. Clearly, it’s not often practical to do this as it presumes a long, appropriate wine list, as well as lots of these wines being available by the glass, given that there will several different choices on the one table.
However, there are ‘catch-all’ wines – wines that are in general good to excellent partners for Chinese cuisine.
One such style of wine is Cava, and indeed other Spanish Sparkling Wines – at a recent private tasting we really enjoyed a DO Rías Baixas sparkler, which I thought would be wonderful with Chinese (and Thai and Indonesian cuisine). For the purposes of the programme and to accompany Dim Sum and Spring Rolls I went for Canals i Munné Pinot Noir Reserva Rosé.
Firstly, this is a lovely Cava – in its presentation as well as its aromas and flavours. Pinot Noir is a relative latecomer into the vineyards of Cava-land. One of the principle varieties of Champagne, it is notoriously difficult to grow successfully. It must have the correct conditions and it’s rather fussy. However, when it’s good, it’s very good!
A delightful pale coloured rosado this Canals I Munné Brut offering has aromas of dark red rose petals, and a harmonious blend of soft red fruit – strawberry to the fore, with raspberry getting into the act a few seconds later. On the grams of sugar per litre scale for a Brut it’s about in the middle, perhaps 8 or nine grams. This means that whilst dry, as we expect a Brut to be, there will be a little fruit-driven sweetness – often a plus with Chinese food.
One of the staple recommendations made by the wine/food pairing cognoscenti, including myself, is a grape variety whose natural home would probably be considered to be Alsace in cold climate Northern France. And, fortunately, we are able to find excellent examples of Gewurztraminer here in Spain. It seems that this, admittedly difficult to pronounce variety, is perfectly at home in the heights of the DO Somontano, where it is able to ripen without difficulty (which is not always the case in Alsace) and yet, providing it is planted in appropriate vineyard sites, retain its essential acidity.
Bodega Sommos Gewurztraminer 2015 is part of their Collección Series, about which you’ll be reading soon, in Cork Talk – where else? It’s a really exotic variety, where the classic Chinese restaurant fruit, Lychee, is always noticeable, remarkably, on the nose and the palate. This in itself makes it a fine partner for Chinese cuisine, and when you add to the equation a certain spiciness (Gewurz means spice, in German) you’re going to be able to cover dishes that have a little sweetness as well as those with a bit of spicy bite to them.
Not that this wine is at all sweet, it’s just that it delivers an abundance of this exotic fruit, as well a hint of minerality. It partnered our Chicken Chop Suey very nicely, thank you very much!
Now, talking of minerality, the duck dish that my guests and I enjoyed in the studio, was paired with another Alsace variety, Riesling, this time grown, amazingly (given the difference in climates) in Moixent, Valencia! Clos Cor Ví makes three or four white wines, using largely French varieties – they are all really good! I’ve written about their Riesling before, so I won’t repeat myself. However, this is another of those varieties that is often suggested when thinking of pairing wines with Chinese Cuisine. Put simply, it works!
Now, please let me know if the Chinese restaurant that you use has any of these wines, or of course any other wines using these varieties! If they do, they’ll receive a letter on congrats from me, for sure!
Next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on www.totalfm.es Sunday 26th Feb – my guests will be Katherine and Harald from the new, beautiful boutique hotel, Casa Boquera!