Asian food culture is largely communal in nature, and a meal can comprise diverse flavours, such that each bite can be different from the preceding one. How do you pair wine within the complex culinary traditions of a typical Cantonese, Korean or Japanese meal?
A common thread across Asia is the strong emphasis on palate texture and delicate umami (savoury, bouillon-like) flavours. Subtle, layered wines are best for pairing with these dishes.
Palate texture is extremely important in Asian cuisine: Look at highly sought-after ingredients such as matsutake mushrooms, toro (fatty tuna), uni (sea urchin), Kobe beef, bird’s nest, homemade tofu, abalone and sea cucumber.
When food texture is an important element in a meal, the texture of a chosen wine must also be considered seriously – an ingredient with a velvety feel such as silky tofu can be overwhelmed if paired with a wine that has aggressive tannins and a dry finish. Try tofu in a soya sauce-based seasoning with a white wine that has a rounded yet prominent mid-palate weight, like the 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Beauregard (top left) served in Singapore Airlines’ First Class cabins, or the 2013 Jean-Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis in Business Class.
Another factor when pairing Asian cuisine with wine is the expectation of the drink’s role at the dining table. Asian dishes are often delicious on their own, such that enhancing their flavours, or our appreciation of them, doesn’t translate as well. The much wider range of flavours in a typical Asian meal, including the addition of numerous condiments and sauces, means one wine will very rarely go with all the dishes.
The best solution is to choose two wines with your Asian meal, one white and one red, with versatile, refreshing personalities. All champagnes are versatile, invigorating and perfect partners to many Asian dishes. There are many versatile whites and reds to choose from: the 2014 Stonier Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula, Australia; 2012 Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Beaune Bressandes Premier Cru from Burgundy, France; 2014 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, both from Marlborough, New Zealand; and 2010 Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru (top right) from Burgundy, France.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.