Whenever I buy a new bottle of wine to try, I instinctively think "Okay, anything but Chinese for dinner." But really, why can't my favorite alcohol and (one of) my favorite cuisines just play nice? In China and many parts of Asia, the de-facto alcohols are rice wines, beer, and for the modern high-roller, whiskey. Drinking grape wine with Chinese food is much more complicated, because of the food's possible spices, smoked flavors, and sometimes pesky cilantro. Lately, however, the food media has been stepping up to the challenge.
Some brief insights:
Eric Asimov's recent column for The New York Times focuses on "Asian genres". Although most of the word count is devoted to Indian food, the same theories can apply to Chinese. "Sparkling wine often complements spicy food for the same reason that beer often works: the bubbles scrub and refresh the palate. Gewürztraminer is often recommended with spicy Asian cuisines, but I much prefer riesling, especially if it has some sweetness."
Red Cook, one of my favorite blogs, did afour-partseries on pairing Chinese food with wine. Kian found a Chenin Blanc that worked well with silken tofu and mushrooms, and a fruity Zinfandel that complimented his red-cooked lamb. See his series for more in-depth coverage.
In an old Food & Wine column, Lettie Teague found that Côtes-du-Rhône was nice with Peking duck. And that Dom Perignon rosé went well with soup dumplings until you add the vinegar. So, uh, no rosé for my xiaolongbao outings.
In the rare occasions I have eaten Chinese food with wine, I tended to go for rieslings, the safest bet. Though I recently discovered tempranillos also worked well with mildy spicy Sichuan, like twice-cooked pork.
Have you had good experiences with Chinese food and grape wine? Nightmare experiences? Share!