Asian cuisines are best matched with wines with moderate alcohol levels, soft tannins, crisp acidity and the right amount of residual sugar, all essential characteristics to balance the acidity, sweetness, umami and mix of spices in Asian dishes. Happily, this means that almost every kind of German wine can pair well with Asian cuisines. This perfect pairing is made possible thanks in part to the elegance and freshness of these cool-climate wines.
Characterised by a huge array of ingredients and diverse flavour profiles, Chinese and Japanese cuisines are best paired based on the cooking techniques and sauces used, as this gives a more practical and flexible guide to pairings that will tantalise the palate. This approach works because the richness and flavour profile of each dish are really determined by the cooking techniques and sauces used, rather than simply by the ingredients. With this in mind, we have outlined below five basic culinary styles in Japanese and Chinese cuisines and outlined their ideal German wine partners.
Steamed and braised dishes
Braising, stewing, and steaming let original flavours of the ingredients shine through, creating light, yet persistent umami flavours when seasoned with clear broth and rice wine. For example, Chinese steamed grouper, Japanese dashi and sake-steamed clams are best paired with light German wines, such as refreshing Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder or Riesling Sekt. Here the acidity of the wines complements the natural flavours in the dish whereas the light body and medium intensity of fruit preserves the delicate balance of flavour in each dish.
Soy sauce dishes
Soy sauce plays a key role in both Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Whether it is Chinese red braised pork belly or Japanese grilled eel, soy sauce works with sugar and fat to create a rich, sweetly caramelised flavour. A fruity red with soft tannins, such as Pinot Noir or Dornfelder, makes an ideal match.
Stir-fried and deep-fried dishes
Wines that pair well with stir fries and deep fried foods need to counterbalance the richness of the dish in some way. Riesling Sekt, with its bright acidity and crisp bubbles, does so beautifully.
Sweet and sour dishes
Japanese salad with pomelo vinaigrette and Perilla plum sauce pork chops, as well as Chinese sweet and sour ribs, Gu Lou pork, and sweet and sour Mandarin fish are all classic dishes that exemplify these two countries’ love for the interplay between sweet and sour. Depending on the sweetness and richness of the dish, a sweet Riesling, such as a Riesling Kabinett or Riesling Spätlese, works well to both complement the sweetness and balance the richness of the meat with a refreshing, crisp acidity.
Hot and spicy dishes
Although traditional Japanese cuisine does not include hot and spicy dishes, Chinese and other Asian cultures have an entire culinary lineage dedicated to chili heat. Those who are passionate about spicy food may find that a Riesling Trocken or Riesling Sekt works particularly well to clear the palate and prime the taste buds, whereas the less dedicated may prefer a sweet Riesling whose sugar soothes the heat!
In most cases, however, one bottle alone may not be enough for an Asian feast with multiple dishes filling the table. We recommend at least two German wines for such meals: a refreshing Riesling Kabinett or Riesling Sekt that pairs well with a wide range of dishes and a Pinot Noir or Dornfelder to provide fruitiness and soft tannins. This combination is a safe decision however diverse the dishes on offer.
Our website curates 25 everyday recipes from China and Japan, showing the step-by-step preparation for each, as well as suggesting a German wine match for each. We hope that it will encourage you to further explore the perfect harmony between German wines and Asian cuisines!