Pairing Wines with Chinese New Year Food


Chinese New Year 2018 is here, and it’s the year of the Dog!  People are celebrating, gathering with friends and family, and wishing each other much success, happiness, and prosperity for the coming year.  Aristo Wines joins in the well-wishing, and hopes all of our members have a joyous celebration and a prosperous new year!  In honor of this ancient and respected event, I would like to give you some ways to pair Aristo wines with some of the more popular and traditional CNY foods eaten in Singapore.  My hope is that the pairings help to enhance the already delicious food in Singapore and elevate the CNY experience.


image source


For centuries, wine has been an important part of celebrating CNY, although traditionally not grape wine.  Wines made from rice, grain, fruit, and milk are some of the more popular traditional wines used for celebration.  However, many people are now adding grape wines to their family tables during the Lunar New Year meals.  Here are some of the dishes that should pair well with wines from Aristo.


2015 Santa Rita Hills Viognier

Because of our Viognier’s tropical and citrus flavors and aromas, this wine should pair nicely with anything that has fruit or fruit juice in the recipe.  Using tangerines (the Chinese word for tangerine sounds similar to the Chinese word for luck) when preparing food for CNY will mirror the citrus in the wine.  The same effect will happen when pairing with some Tang Yuan (which is thought to bring unity or family togetherness), if it is made with some of the brighter flavored fruits.  It should also go nicely with pineapple tarts.


Colorful balls of Tang Yuan                                  image source

Viognier also has a crispness to it that will complement the sweetness of Yu Sheng (which brings prosperity, wealth, and sweetness to one’s life) when tossed with a sweet pineapple fruit sauce.  For the same reason, it will most likely be good with sweet Nian Gao (which brings higher status and income when eaten during Chinese New Year).  


Beautiful plate of Yu Sheng                                               image source

Because Viognier is a light white, it will not overpower foods that have lighter sauces, vegetables, or seafood.  Try pairing it with dishes such as fried rice, spring rolls & dumplings (which, due to their resemblance to gold bars and gold & silver ingots, are thought to bring wealth), or steamed fish (the Chinese word for fish is similar to the word for surplus, and so is thought to bring prosperity).  As long as any sauces for the dishes are on the light side, Viognier is your best bet.  The same goes when eating noodles (which bring longevity) that are cooked in a light, sweet/sour, or fruity sauce.

2016 Russian River Pinot Noir

Since our Pinot Noir is on the light side with milder tannins, it will go best dishes that aren’t so bold or heavy.  Try pairing with tea smoked duck; or Hokkaido scallops, seared or cooked in a soy-based sauce.  A fried rice made with pork would be especially nice with the Pinot Noir, and a pork belly (which brings joy) cooked with abalone and a mushroom sauce would work beautifully.  Steamed fish will go nicely with Pinot Noir if the sauce is savory and earthy and not too bold.  Spring rolls and dumplings, especially ones made with pork, beef, or mushroom, would also go well together.  Noodles in a savory sauce like an oyster sauce, for instance, would marry nicely with Pinot Noir, and pork Bak Kwa (which, because they resemble red packets, are believed to bring luck) would be delicious with it, too.


Sweet and salty Bak Kwa                                                            image source


2015 Livermore Valley Syrah

Since our Syrah is bold with hints of smoke and a sturdy structure, it can stand up to bigger, bolder, richer flavors and textures.  It would be wonderful with a rich, hearty Pen Cai, as long as the broth was on the dark, meaty or smoky side.  The tannins in the wine would be a nice complement to the salty, smoky richness of pork belly or beef Bak Kwa.  Noodles, fish, or other seafood, as long as they are grilled or made with a hearty sauce, are another fine choice with Syrah.


A lovely bowl of Pen Cai                                                    Image source

2016 Lodi Port

The sweetness of our port can limit it as far as pairings, but one thing to keep in mind when pairing with desserts is to either match the level of sweetness of the food with the wine, or allow the food to be sweeter than the wine.  This port should pair nicely with Tang Yuan or Nian Gao, as long as they are sweet enough, and especially if they have bolder flavors.  


Sweet and sticky Nian Gao cake                                   image source

However you celebrate Chinese New Year, may we all have a year full of joy, prosperity, and happiness ahead of us!