The right wines for Chinese New Year

Daniel Wagner of Weingut Wagner-Stempel (Photo: Original Verkorkt)

Yes, I know Chinese people have a well-known love of big, rich Aussie red wines with red labels and bin numbers containing 8 – and undiluted Cognac – but, if you asked me what bottles I’d take to a Chinese restaurant (or buy off the wine list), I wouldn’t include either.

My preference is to match the wine with the food, both in weight and flavour compatibility, where possible.

I recently ate at Sydney Cantonese restaurant Golden Century with winemaker Daniel Wagner, of Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Rheinhessen, and his wines (plus a German pinot noir from a different maker) were perfect with everything we ate.

We started with pippies in XO sauce on fried vermicelli noodles, delicious, juicy and succulent, with the Wagner-Stempel Gutswein Riesling Trocken 2016 (see Cellar Talk this week), a perfect complement and a brilliant start to the meal. Next came mud crab with ginger and shallot (spring onions), which is a classic at this establishment (well, so are the pippies for that matter) and out came the 2015 Siefersheim Porphyr, another minerally dry riesling with especially crisp acidity, refreshing and perfect with the crab. The 5 grams/litre of residual sugar is just enough to soften the wine and balance it, but not enough to be obvious.

In between, we ate steamed rice-flour rolls with barbecued pork – glutinous spring rolls stuffed with shredded pork. These had great flavour and I do so enjoy that slithery texture.

Next we tasted the two GG (Grosses Gewächs, or grand cru) wines: 2016 Höllberg and 2016 Heerkretz. The Heerkretz is all stainless-steel fermented to retain maximum freshness while the Höllberg sees half stainless-steel and half big, old oak vats. Again, hard to beat with the fare.

The final dish was salt and pepper squid, again, a go-to dish at this restaurant which never fails to satisfy. It worked really well with the off-dry 2016 Siefersheim Kabinett. A little sweetness is needed with the spiciness of this dish. Indeed, off-dry German riesling is an outstanding match with many of the spicier Asian dishes and can deal with dishes much ‘hotter’ than this one. A truly beautiful wine, its fragrance was haunting.

Just for fun, we finished with a glass of 2015 Ziereisen Talrain Spatburgunder (pinot noir) – which is also imported by Wagner-Stempel’s importer, Heart & Soil.

It’s a very good pinot from a ground-breaking vintage for many German pinot makers. They used to struggle for ripeness in pinot, but not so much these days.

Pinot noir of course also goes with much else at the heartier end of the menu, the pork, beef and duck dishes.

So, that’s my carry-bag for Chinese New Year. Riesling (a selection of bottles), pinot noir… oh, and probably a very good Champagne or Aussie sparkler to start with. Gung hee fat choy.

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