Sunday, 14 August 2011

Summer Wines

The temperature in Hong Kong has been soaring for months and it looks like there is at least another month to go before the mercury drops back to a more bearable 27ºC. I haven't felt like drinking any reds these last two months, even in a freezing cold restaurant; it just doesn’t feel right (like those people who eat hot pot in summer with the air-conditioning blasting on top of their heads—what a waste of energy!).

Most people, sadly, switch to auto mode and reach for a red wine when having (especially) Chinese meals regardless of the dish. But open your eyes and you will find there are actually a lot of interesting whites other than Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc out there that beautifully complement Chinese meals in this weather.

At a recent South African WOSA wine tasting, we had Cap Classique (sparkling), Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay with some typical dishes: siu mai (pork dumpling), marinated steamed chicken (貴妃雞) and sliced abalone. All these wines went well with the food. The bubbles of the Villera Monro Brut 2007 accentuated the fragrance of the fresh abalone, while the complexity and richness of the barrel fermented Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010 complemented the texture of the siu mai. The lightly flavoured chicken was perfect with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2009.

Unlike New World whites, which emphasise varietal flavour and tend to be fruity, the subtlety of Old World whites often makes for a good food match. Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain is generally a good choice with Cantonese cuisine as both the wine and food have multi-layered yet non-dominating flavours. We had a vegetarian four course meal paired with four wines at The Mira’s WHISK a few months ago and found the Pazo de Senorans Albarino 2009 a good match for three of the four dishes: watermelon and tomato cannelloni, eggplant ratatouille and gnocchi with pumpkin sauce. Only the asparagus and mushroom risotto was too rich for this wine.

Equally good matches are the full bodied Priorat white wines with heavier seafood dishes such as scallops in black bean sauce, spicy prawns and deep fried cuttlefish. I suspect the asparagus and mushroom risotto would go well too.

Just last week I tried the Tbilvino Tsinandali from Georgia, a white wine made from indigenous Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes. Surprisingly flavoursome with floral and ginger nose but crisp and elegant on palate: a heavenly wine with sashimi and sushi.

Don’t waste the rest of summer. Go and get a few bottles of white and bubbly (I just bought two cases!)

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