A fine balance: Chinese food and wine matching

Cloudy Bay wine dinner at Davids

While it’s easy enough to pair a cabernet sauvignon with a chargrilled steak or a luscious late-harvest riesling with your favourite lemon tart, matching wines to Chinese food can be a tad trickier. Chillies, sugar and fat can all conspire against wine, so a bit of expert advice is required. To help demystify the pairing process, David’s Restaurant in Prahran has been rolling out a series of Winter Epicurean Dinners. I popped along to the most recent event, hosted by Cloudy Bay wines. Prawn roll Davids Cloudy Bay wine dinnerThe New Zealand winery is best known for its pinot noir, chardonnay and aromatic whites. Cloudy Bay’s pert Pelorus Brut was the perfect partner to a delicate starter of prawn and bean curd rolls. Next up was David’s signature Shanghai duck leg, matched to the light, bright 2012 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir. The duck fat had been rendered down perfectly, resulting in salty, crispy skin and meat you could pull apart with your chopsticks. It was an odd placement for this dish, however, by far one of the heaviest of the night, and paired with the evening’s only red, but perhaps they were conscious of the rise in spice levels that followed.

Waitstaff then roamed the room, dishing out hunks of lamb hock pot from huge earthenware bowls. The hock was fall-apart tender, with a gentle background of spicing that crept up the more that you ate. This rustic braise was teamed with the Pinot Gris, a stellar, slick wine in its own right, but perhaps not up to the heft of this meaty main. 

Szechuan seafood soup Davids Cloudy Bay wine dinnerThere were no such qualms with the next course, which set the 2012 Chardonnay alongside sweet-and-sour Murray cod. The richness of the wine worked a treat with the sticky-sweet fish. And the final savoury dish, a chilli-spiked Szechuan seafood soup (right), was ably supported by the zesty aromatics of the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. 

To finish, warm sake was poured with David’s legendary white chocolate dumplings, pillowy little clouds with a molten centre and a smattering of sesame seeds. Winemaker Nick Lane was on hand to talk guests through the pairings, and at $85 a head, the six-course menu was excellent value (although I was a guest of Harvey Publicity – cheers guys). Keep an eye out for upcoming Winter Epicurean Dinners at David’s with Ocean 8 Wines (July 30) and Giaconda.

For more on the Cloudy Bay range, visit cloudybay.co.nz.

Sarah Gamboni is an Australian food, drinks and travel writer. Sarah writes for leading lifestyle magazines and websites, and produces content for a range of clients spanning tourism bodies, beauty products, food and fashion. She is currently based in Dubai with her husband, Simon, and daughter, Francesca.

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