A wine connoisseur's cheat sheet to pairing Asian food with wine

A wine connoisseur's cheat sheet to pairing Asian food with wine

Read and learn

Text: Janice Sim

Let's just say your plate of chicken rice deserves a better beverage

Whenever the term "wine pairing" is sounded out, the common association leads to a decadent menu of steaks, pasta or a luxurious platter of crustaceans. Asian food? A thought that hardly crosses our minds.

Guy Nussey, regional director of Viña Concha y Toro (Latin America's top wine producer) begs to differ. Thanks to his experiences in travelling extensively throughout the continent, specifically Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, Nussey is well acquainted with the complex and varied realm of Asian cuisine.

In a nutshell, the man has ingested enough soya sauce to know the secrets to pairing Asian cuisine with a sophisticated glass of liquor. Below, Nussey shares his top recommendations for his favourite dishes. Hopefully, they're yours too. 

Pad Thai
Wine of choice: Riesling

A Riesling complements the classic flavours of the dish, especially if it's served with a dash of lime and peanuts sprinkled on top. 

For something a little lighter on the palate, South African Chenin Blanc is a great alternative, namely from Ken Forrester — the king of Chenin. For those of you who are slightly more adventurous, go for the FMC, rich and layered with dried apricot, vanilla and a hint of honey from the small proportion of botrytis in the blend.   

Tom Yum Goong
Wine of choice:
Cono Sur Single Vineyard "Rulos des Alto" Block 23 Riesling

The Asian soup that's spicy, sour, savoury and addictive. It combines the flavours of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, fresh Thai chilies and fresh lime juice to create a healthy and soothing broth that will light up your taste buds, you need a wine that can do the same. Cono Sur Single Vineyard "Rulos del Alto" Block 23 Riesling is one of my perennial favourites, and makes for a great companion to the soup.

Made from the red clay soils of the Bio Bio Valley in the deep south of Chile's winemaking region, it has a beautiful balance of zippy citrus fruits to match the lime, floral aromas against the lemongrass and enough sweetness to match the spice of the soup, all held together by a lovely mineral spine.

Asian food pairing with wine

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Wine of choice:
New World Pinot Nor

Chicken Rice can vary greatly — depending on how much chilli and soya sauce you indulge in. For those who like the umami kick of soy, I would recommend a New World Pinot Noir from cooler climates with generous fruit flavours rather than the more savoury style from Burgundy.

The Limari region in Chile, with its Pacific Ocean exposure and mineral soils, produces some great value examples such as the Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Pinot Noir. Alternatively and on the other side of the Pacific, New Zealand has become almost as well known for Pinot Noir as its Sauvignon Blanc. I am a fan of the Martinborough style of wines such as Schubert's Block B Pinot Noir. Both of the aforementioned wines have bright summer fruit characteristics balanced with leather notes, earthiness and minerality that sits well against the soy.

Wine pairing with Asian foods

Sushi and sashimi
Wine of choice: Chateau Mercian Koshu Kiiroka and Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay

The clean and subtle flavours of sushi and sashimi allow for a pairing made locally with Japanese Koshu, such as Chateau Mercian Koshu Kiiroka. However, we would also need to recognise the more fatty elements of prawn or Toro tuna. The wine which I think exhibits the same characteristics would be our Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay.

It is now produced close to a million kilometres away from the Maipo region, where the Chardonnay was produced back when I first tasted it in 2007. The move to a cooler climate has produced a wine that anyone who drinks anything but Chardonnay would appreciate. 

Asian food pairing with wine

Viña Concha y Toro's selection of wines are available at major supermarkets.