Wines to celebrate Year of the Rooster
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This Saturday marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rooster, and for Chinese people worldwide their New Year celebrations begin the previous day and continue for 15 days afterwards.
During this time, new clothes are worn (mainly red to warn off bad luck) and many festive meals are eaten. In this country, there is a proliferation of Chinese restaurants and takeaways and many people enjoy participating in the New Year celebrations.
Food inevitably plays an important part in the fun and determining wines to complement can be difficult because of the diversity of the flavours among the dishes.
As a rule of thumb, many more aromatic and distinctive white wines and lighter reds with plenty of flavour and some balancing acidity are great with Chinese dishes.
White wines with a hint of richness and sweetness are a good match, especially to sweet and sour dishes or those with a hint of spice.
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Gewurztraminer, the grape we either love or hate, has a lovely aroma and taste of lychees, rose petal and spice that lingers on the palate with a honeyed finish. This is especially when from Alsace such as that from M Leon or the zestier organic Adobe Gewurztraminer from Chile.
New World Rieslings - like Jim Barry Lodge Hill from the Clare Valley or Wirra Wirra Lost Watch from McLaren Vale in Australia - with their lime and flowery fragrance and often off-dry grapey mouthfilling notes, are delicious with dumplings filled with minced meat or vegetables and fish dishes, as are New Zealand Gruner Veltliners from Seifried Estate or from Zero G in Austria. Time to experiment...
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Argentina’s Torrontes with its heady aromas, warm stone fruit flavours and gentle spice works well with chicken – look out for Torrontes from Nieto Senetiner to match with spring rolls and rice balls.
The Chinese as a nation seem to prefer red wines and those that best complement their cuisine have thinner skins and vibrant fruit flavours and soft easy lingering taste.
The often-forgotten wines from Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape fit this spot well, as they have easy drinking yet vibrant lasting fruit flavours and these together with Pinot Noirs with spice from New Zealand like that from Esk Valley or Escarpment are perfect with crispy duck.
To complement the meatier dishes or those with black bean spice try some of the more generous but not too tannic reds.
These include those from the Rhone Valley or Faugeres from the Languedoc such as that from Calmel & Joseph. Italian reds are worth trying with a range of Chinese foods especially those with some oak-aging like the Ceppi Storici Barbera or Rive Barbera both from the Piemonte region.
Chinese New Year is a great opportunity to try some new dishes or old favourites and find some of your favourite wines to go with them or experiment with different combinations. As ever wine should be fun!