chinese food wine pairing for lunar new year

Food & Wine

Chinese Food Wine Pairing for Lunar New Year

January 12, 2022

Written By Coravin

This year, Lunar New Year falls on Tuesday, February 1, and continues through mid February. Lunar New Year is celebrated by a number of cultures with big celebrations in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and Mongolia. Each culture has it's own traditions centered around bringing friends and family together over good food and, for some, great wine.

In Chinese culture, 2022 is the year of the Tiger – the third zodiac animal. 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 palace first in what's called the "Great Race." The Tiger, a symbol of strength and bravery, thought it was an easy win but ended up placing third after the cunning Rat and hard-working Ox. How'd the Rat get out front, you ask? He hitched a ride on the Ox and jumped down and landed just ahead near the end of the race. Sneaky, sneaky.

During Chinese celebrations of Lunar 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 and wine pairings

If you’re looking to celebrate the year of the Tiger 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 Lunar New Year are sweet, sour, and a little spicy, calling for wines that can stand their ground. Wine recommendations come from our friends, 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.

Shop Sauvignon Blanc

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. 

If you're shopping on the Coravin Wine Shop, try this 2017 Chateau des Eyrins La Closerie des Eyrins Margaux or 2018 Chateau la Gaffeliere 1er Cru Classe Saint Emilion – both from Bordeaux, France.

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 suckle.

We have a number of dessert wines on the Coravin Wine Shop. Give our Port or Sauternes a try.

Tang Yuan chinese new year sweer rice balls

Good fortune fruit with Prosecco

Since Lunar 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.

Shop Riesling wines on the Coravin Wine Shop. Our selections include 2019 Domaine Mann Vignoble Des 3 Terres Alsace Riesling Happy Lemon, 2019 Dandelion Vineyards Riesling Enchanted Garden of the Eden Valley, and 2019 Von Hövel Saar Riesling Kabinett.

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 sipping on this Lunar New Year. Tag us in your food and wine pairing photos on social media, @coravin.

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