[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap] ines of the west have been matched with the culinary fare of the east, particularly Chinese food, but as romantic as it sounds, it is a tricky endeavour that often runs afoul. The two taste profiles, after all, have existed in different spheres for centuries, and the understanding of how to pair them is only just coming to light.
For example, progressive Cantonese restaurant Mitzo, at Grand Park Orchard, serves up a special barbecued pork, crispy roasted pork belly and deep-fried prawn wrapped with fillo combination. Sommelier Nicolas Rebut of The French Cellar, who has had stints at three-Michelin-starred restaurants, recommends Champagne Gonet Blanc de Blancs, extra brut, Cuvee 3210.The ‘extra brut’ designation means it has low sugar content – in this case, none at all – making it the ideal complement to the honeyed char of the barbecued pork. The hint of citrus notes, too, balances the fattiness of the meat and oil for a satisfying finish.
For flavours such as braised udon with duck in truffle sauce, he suggests a Chambertin Close de Beze, Domaine Pierre Gelin, 2009. This Burgundy, which originates from one of the most prestigious vineyards in the region, has complex flavours that can be appreciated on its own or when paired with duck, and enhances the meat’s nuances.
Sommelier Indra Kumar, who is also the secretary-general of the Sommelier Association of Singapore, sheds some light on east-meets-west pairing. “Matching wine with traditional Chinese cuisine can be difficult. A considerable number of dishes are stir-fried or are coated in gravy – meaning a wide variety of flavours and textures in a single plate.”
This means a good pairing – which Kumar likens to courtship – is challenging, as there are so many aspects of the food to address at once. “There are essentially two ways to pair wine with food. The first – the two share the same vein of flavour, so they enhance the overall taste. The second – they are complementary and bring different notes to the table, leaving a fuller, rounder experience and highlighting the other’s strengths. Both are tougher with some Chinese dishes.”
That isn’t to say that stellar matches cannot be made, however. As evidenced in the duck udon and Burgundy match, the starchiness or fattiness in similar dishes tend to cling to the mouth, and thus make a great case for wines with strong tannins and sufficient acidity. These qualities relieve the palate by ‘cutting through’ the heavy sensation and leave the mouth refreshed and ready for another portion.
Says Kumar, who is now at Portugese restaurant Boca: “I may be foreign to the intricacies of Chinese food, but I find it an exciting idea that wine pairing has taken on a broader definition beyond European haute cuisine.”