chinese food wine pairing for lunar new year

Food & Wine

Chinese Food Wine Pairing for Lunar New Year

February 12, 2021

Written By Coravin

This year, Chinese New Year (also referred to as Lunar New Year) falls on Friday, February 12, and continues until Friday, February 26 – culminating with the Lantern Festival. 

2021 is the year of the Ox – the second of the zodiac animals. According to common myths, the order of the zodiac animals was decided by the order in which 12 animals arrived at the Jade Emperor’s party. The Ox was on track to be the first to arrive but was tricked into giving the Rat a ride. At the last moment, Rat jumped down and landed just ahead of Ox. In Chinese culture, oxen are valued animals because of their role in agriculture and their positive characteristics. If your Chinese zodiac animal happens to be the Ox, you are believed to be a humble hard worker, intelligent, reliable, and not one to seek praise. 

During Chinese New Year families participate in big reunions, visit friends and relatives, gift red envelopes with money inside, watch traditional dragon dances and firework shows, declutter, buy new clothes, and – of course – indulge in traditional festive treats. The treats are what we’re here to talk about.   

Chinese Food Wine Pairings 

If you’re looking to celebrate the year of the Ox with festive foods, we have the perfect recipe and wine pairings for your Chinese New Year meals. While many Asian drinkers prefer a simple red like Pinot Noir with most of their dishes (especially duck and beef recipes), you’ll notice there’s a good mix of reds and whites on our list. Many of the dishes served during Chinese New Year are sweet, sour, and a little spicy, calling for wines that can stand their ground. All wine recommendations come from our trusted experts, Howard Kwok and Sébastien Menut.

You might recognize Howard, co-owner of Vignobles K (@chateaubellefontbelcier), from a special episode of Wine O’Clock with Coravin founder Greg Lambrecht (on Greg’s birthday!). Howard teamed up with Sébastien, one of his most trusted wine experts, to bring you the best Chinese food wine pairing recommendations out there. 

Hong Shao Yu (braised whole fish) with a red from Beaujolais

Serving whole fish during Lunar New Year symbolizes prosperity and abundance but be careful not to flip the fish over on the plate. Superstition says flipping the fish can symbolize a capsizing boat which might not seem relevant unless you have a fisherman in the family, but it’s still best to avoid for any other interpretations of the word “capsized.”

For this recipe, you’ll need wine for cooking (Shaoxing cooking wine or cooking sake) and wine for drinking – we recommend a red from Beaujolais. To make this pairing perfect, we recommend adding some chili peppers to the dish when the vinegar, soy sauce, and cooking wine go in. Our pairing is packed with bright, playful fruit and has a refreshing finish thanks to its low-alcohol content. It pairs especially well with foods that have a spicy kick.

Jiaozi (dumplings) with Sauvignon Blanc

Traditionally, Chinese dumplings are filled with ground pork and often blended with shrimp, fresh ginger, and cooked white cabbage. For more flavor, sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions are often added to the mix. Jiaozi symbolizes wealth during Chinese New Year so if you’re manifesting a higher bank account balance, add these to your menu. 

Paired with a vibrant Sauvignon Blanc with aromatics of bright citrus, lime, orchard blossom, and passion fruit. 

chinese spring rolls with pork cabbage and tofu

Chun Juan (spring rolls) with Bordeaux 

Next on the list – and also symbolizing wealth – are spring rolls. What we love about spring rolls is their freezability. Make a big batch and save some for a later date. This recipe from China Sichuan Food has pork, cabbage, and carrots, but you could make them vegetarian by using tofu instead.

The 2018 Bellefont-Belcier by Howard’s own Vignobles K has an understated perfume of red cherries, crushed strawberry, and violet aromas. The palate is very velvety in the mouth with a generous oaky finish. 

Tang Yuan (rice balls in sweet syrup) with sweet wine

Like soup, but make it sweet. Tang Yuan is a sweet dish composed of glutinous rice flour and water, traditionally served in a sweet and floral broth. This Chinese delicacy is typically enjoyed at the beginning of the Lantern Festival, symbolizing family and togetherness.

Sweet dishes like this call for a sweet wine. This biodynamic wine from Domaine Huet is medium-bodied with aromas of honey sucky

Tang Yuan chinese new year sweer rice balls

Good fortune fruit with Prosecco

Since Chinese New Year falls during colder months, “good fortune fruits” tend to be winter citruses like oranges, tangerines, kumquats, and pomelos. Because the fruits are round and golden in color, they’re said to symbolize fullness and wealth. These fruits are gifted and eaten throughout Chinese New Year and don’t require a special recipe preparation. That said, we did find a tasty-looking Fortune Fruit Salad which we paired with a dry, refreshing bubbly.

chinese new year sweet rice cake nian gao

Nian Gao (sweet rice cake) with half-dry Riesling

Keeping with the sweets theme, next up is Nian Gao – a sweet rice cake. This Chinese New Year meal is believed to bring about higher income or a higher position at work. Our recipe selection from What to Cook Today is simple – including only 5 ingredients and three different cooking options including a slow cooker or Instant Pot method.

Shanghai vegetable rice with Barbaresco

This simple vegetarian dish is a staple on Chinese New Year dinner tables. Our recipe pick is super simple – all you need is bok choy, green onions, oil, salt, and cooked rice. We sourced the recipe from a small blog in one corner of the internet, Madame Huang’s Kitchen. For wine, Howard and Sébastien went with an Italian Barbaresco. This bottle, in particular, opens with earthy aromas with a palate of dried cherry, fennel, and tobacco. 

Banquet-style meal

If you’re looking for a bottle to serve with a medley of Chinese dishes, we recommend an Oregon Pinot Noir. It’ll provide a smooth, easy-drinking experience throughout the meal.

We’d love to see what you’re cooking up and Coravin-ing into this Chinese New Year. Tag us in your Chinese food wine pairing photos on social media or write us a message.