The very long Chinese culinary tradition, the vastness of the territory and the many regional styles that are also very different make the Chinese dishes rich in contrasting flavors. This makes pairing wine with Chinese food a very challenging exercise even for the best Sommeliers.
Let’s think, for example, of all the dishes characterized by a bold combination of more opposite flavors, such as sweet and sour dishes or with spicy sauces.
In China the wine consumed during meals is almost exclusively red. This opens the door to a combination with a decidedly versatile red wine and particularly suitable for typical Chinese dishes, from Peking duck to chicken with sesame: Chianti.
Tuscan wine of artists and poets famous since the Etruscan era, Chianti stands out by far as the greatest of wines and holds the record for being the most famous wine in the world. Already in the Middle Ages its excellence was recognized, due to the exclusive use of native grapes of the Florentine and Sienese vineyards.
Chianti is a wine with Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin (DOCG) and, as is tradition, it is obtained by pure vinification of black Sangiovese type grapes, to which are added low quantities of Colorino grapes, Canaiolo. Cherry or Merlot. Sangiovese, the undisputed king of Italian red grape varieties, alludes to the “Sanctus Zeus”, the god Jupiter of the Romans, and was already praised in ancient times by Pliny the Elder as one of the most prized grapes in the world.
Unmistakable in its ruby red color, Chianti fills the glasses with a precious nectar with an intense and enveloping tone. The nose opens with floral and fruity aromas, in which notes of violet, blackberry and cherry dominate. From the versions refined in the wood spicy hints of cinnamon and vanilla, tobacco, leather and cocoa are also released, associated with aromas of jam, blackberries and plums, with some hints of aromatic herbs, such as sage and rosemary. Soft in the mouth, it shows a fruity aftertaste with tannins fused to the alcohol component.
Enjoying Chianti, you can taste a wine of character in the glass but at the same time delicate and refined, rich in tannins and with a harmonious and persistent finish. The flavor recalls the harsh and sweet mix typical of plums and black and red berry fruits. The soft consistency of this wine in younger bottles becomes velvety in the more aged ones.
Many Italian wines, including Chianti, are nowadays produced as “organic wines”. The main difference with traditional non-organic wines is that organic wines do not contain chemical substances and therefore, compared to conventional wines, they have a very important added value: they respect and safeguard the environment and the health of consumers. Furthermore, they contain some very useful substances for the human body such as resveratrol, which numerous scientific studies have shown to be a therapeutic agent for the cardiovascular system of man.
To taste the best of good Chianti, the bottle must be opened a few hours before, allowing the wine to oxygenate itself and release all its aromas. The ideal temperature for Chianti wine is 16 ° -18 °. It is also very important, when you want to taste such a special wine and grasp all its nuances, choose the right glass: to make the most of this precious Tuscan red wine it is necessary to serve it in a tulip-shaped glass, with the mouth slightly shrinking, to enhance it the bouquet.
Among the recommended pairings, surely stands out with meat or stewed dishes, but with its versatility, Chianti excellently sublimates even the most delicate fragrances of fish dishes, white meats and vegetables.
Perfect in combination with any meal, it goes very well with the typical dishes of Chinese cuisine, even the tastiest and most spicy ones, such as:
Tasting and pairing notes: a complex recipe, well known also in Italy and in the West. Native of Guangdong province, it is a particularly complex dish full of suggestions for the palate. This wine, thanks to its good acidity and persistence combined with the presence of its tannins, manages at the same time to clean up the mouth without damping the flavors of the dish, but enhancing them.
Roast duck (traditional Beijing recipe)
Tasting and pairing notes: the acidity, the body and the tannins of this important wine combine very well with the richness and sumptuousness, and also the fat, of the duck. The explosion on the palate of fruity hints of wine gives a balanced and perfect taste.
Braised pork belly with vegetables
Tasting and pairing notes: the structure and the tannic component that characterize the Chianti make it particularly suitable to be paired with cooked pork with this particular recipe that makes it succulent and full-bodied.
Fried pork in sweet and sour sauce
Tasting and pairing notes: aging and refining in oak barrels make this wine strong and intense both on the nose and on the palate, with its evident toasted and balsamic notes. The dish to which it is paired requires, for the extremes of taste on which it is based, a full-bodied and persistent wine like the Chianti.
Spinach noodles (typical Sichuan recipe)
Tasting and pairing notes: the soft tannins of Chianti go perfectly with the succulent seasoning – meat, soy, chicken, vegetables and ginger – of these particular noodles. A persistence on the palate that allows to appreciate the fruity scents and the intensity of the spices to very well balance the bitter aftertaste of the dish.
Steamed ravioli with braised duck
Tasting and pairing notes: this wine with its soft, full-bodied and tannic characteristics fits perfectly with this classic Chinese recipe. Silky but intense and with a good freshness to balance the thick dough and the palatal sensations left by steaming, and also rightly tannic to support the taste of the filling, fat and succulent.
Pork meatball with sweet and sour sauce and Chinese cabbage
Tasting and pairing notes: this pairing is particularly appropriate thanks to the fruity notes of chianti, but also for its balsamic and spicy scents that well accompany the sweet and sour sauce. The tannins, thick but soft, are perfect to support the taste of meat and to clean the palate with every taste.
Written by Diego Vita Sommelier