Best wine for Chinese food

Wine and Chinese food might not necessarily be the most famous pairing. Once you know how to combine wine with the complexity of Chinese cooking, you will see the two make for a pretty dynamic duo. Like wine, Chinese food is vast, and complex, and offers something to satisfy just about any palate.

What enhances any cuisine, is a glass of the perfect wine to go with it. Whether it is red, white, or rose, wine elevates the dining experience.

There are a variety of red and white wines that pair well with Chinese cuisine. Wines such as Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay among others are examples of wines that compliment Chinese dishes. Even sparkling wines can pair with Chinese dishes, such as Champagne, specifically Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

We have chosen the following four wines that we think are the best options for Chinese dishes;

Best wine for Chinese food – Chardonnay (oaked)

Chardonnay is one of the many wines that pair well with Chinese dishes, in particular dim sum. Dim sum is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine. It includes a variety of small dishes such as spring rolls, dumplings, and soy-seasoned meats. The beauty of dim sum is that the savory flavors pair so well with Chardonnay.

Chardonnay pairs perfectly with these dishes, keeping each bite fresh and light. This is because oaked Chardonnay is a full-bodied white wine, unlike Sauvignon Blanc which is relatively light. The contrast between the light and freshness of dim sum and the heaviness of the Chardonnay ensures a wonderful pairing. Some dim sum will also include meats such as pork, which would be perfect with a glass of Chardonnay.

Chardonnay includes flavors such as yellow apple, starfruit, and pineapple, thus is an extremely fruity wine. Referring back to the pork, this works perfectly. The combination of a sweet apple and pineapple flavor with the savory pork dim sum is a fine combo.

In cooler climates, such as Burgundy, Northern Italy, Coastal Chile, and New Zealand, you will experience fruits such as quince and starfruit in a glass of Chardonnay. In warmer climates, such as California, South Australia, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina, you will experience a more yellow apple flavor.

Either way, a Chardonnay will elevate your Chinese dish.

chardonnay
Chardonnay

Best wine for Chinese food – Riesling

Riesling is another white wine that pairs brilliantly with Chinese dishes such as chow mein. Chow Mein is a dish full of noodles that are stir-fried with oil. The ‘chow’  refers to the stir-frying of the noodles, and as mentioned above is fried in oil. Riesling is so good with this dish. It perfectly balances out the richness of the oil present in the noodles. Riesling is a dry wine, as well as a fruity wine that cuts the richness of the dish effectively.

Flavors such as lime, and green apple are the typical flavors you will experience in a glass of Riesling. In cooler climates, flavors like limes will be present. Whereas, in the warmer climates, flavors such as orange and nectarine will be present in a glass of Riesling. 

Ultimately, the fruity flavors of Riesling will balance out the richness of chow mein, to create a complementary pairing.

Best wine for Chinese food – Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a great for Chinese dishes that contain sweet flavors such as hoisin sauce or sour sauce. It pairs brilliantly with sweet and sour pork.

It is often the case that the sweet elements of Chinese dishes may diminish the fruity elements of wines. Wines with low tannins such as Pinot Noir are better. The fruitiness does not fade, compared to wines with high tannins and those of lighter bodies.

Pinot Noir contains a lot of fruity flavors and can handle the sweetness of the hoisin sauce or sour sauces. It offers fruity flavors such as cranberry, cherry, and raspberry.

In cooler climates such as France, Germany, Italy, and Oregon, flavors such as cranberry, and even mushroom appear. Those from warmer climates, such as California, South Australia, and Chile will contain flavors such as raspberry and even clove. 

The largest producer of Pinot Noir is France. Then it’s USA and Germany, meaning that the largest producers are producing wines in cooler climates. These cooler climates will give off a more cranberry flavor, which perfectly matches the sweet and sour pork.

The issue with the cooler climate wines is that they may be slightly lighter than the wines from warmer climates. This means that the fruitiness may be stripped from them easier than those produced in California for example.

Places such as the Central coast, Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz are all places that produce heavier bodies of Pinot noirs, ensuring that the fruitiness still compliments the sweet and sour taste of Chinese dishes. Pinot noir is a solid choice with its sweet and sour flavors.

pinot noir

Best wine for Chinese food – Viognier

Viognier is a moderately dry white wine that has low acidity and is extremely fruity. Furthermore, this may work well with dishes such as Kung Pao (Gung Bao) Chicken. With this dish, white wines that are low in acidity and have a lot of fruity flavors work well. It balances out the flavor of the chilies that are present in this dish. 

The chilies give off a spicy sensation. A fruity wine will easily balance it out. Typically white wines are best for this type of Chinese dish, especially Viognier

Wines such as Sauvignon blanc are fruity. However, it is a wine that is very acidic and therefore may disturb the flavors in this particular dish. The spicy effect that you experience with the chilies, may bolster the acidity you taste with a glass of Sauvignon. It is important that you choose a white wine that is not as acidic, so that the acidity is not overpowering.

Going back to Viognier, the flavors present in this wine are tangerine, peach, and mango. You can also get a sense of honeysuckle and rose.

In cooler climates, Viognier may have a more orangey flavor, as well as a hint of apricot. You will get these flavors from viogniers produced in France (The Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon). In warmer climates such as California, you may experience flavors such as mango and pineapple. All are fruity flavors that will compliment the Kung pao chicken dish and will balance out the spiciness of the chiles. Overall this wine is one of the best wines for Chinese food.

If you are looking for a good recipe for Kung Pao Chicken, I recommend trying this one on allrecipes.com. Just make sure you make a bit more sauce or add some chili paste to get that authentic taste.

Viognier

Conclusion

Overall, these four wines are excellent for a variety of Chinese dishes. Despite the fact that Chinese food and wine are not famous for their combination, there is a good range of pairings that work well together.

Chardonnay works well with dim sum dishes because of the contrast between the light and freshness of the dish and the heavy-bodied wine. 

Riesling works perfectly with the chow mein, to balance out the richness of the stir-fried noodles, allowing you to appreciate the meal and the wine at the same time. 

Pinot noir is a great wine for dishes such as sweet and sour pork. The sweet and sourness of the pork need to be accompanied by a wine that has low tannins and is fruity, since wines with higher tannins have their fruitiness stripped away from them. 

Finally, Viognier is a great white wine for dishes such as Kung Pao chicken. The Kung Pao chicken consists of chilies and it is a spicy dish. The fruitiness of the Viognier allows the spiciness to be balanced out, meaning you can appreciate the meal more. Wines such as Sauvignon have high acidity and therefore may disturb other flavors from the wine and the dish. You should aim to have a wine that is low in acidity and has a high amount of fruity flavors. Viognier is exactly that.

dim sum

Check out our other posts for wine pairing with oriental dishes.