Pairing Champagne with Traditional Chinese Cuisine
3rd February 2020
For many of us, we will be familiar with and certainly fans of well known Chinese dishes such as Peking duck, chicken chow mein, sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice. Much of what we see in restaurants and takeaways will cater for what is described as westernised Chinese food, ie the cuisine that Westerners refer to as “Chinese food” that mostly originated in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1950s.
There are said to be over 2,000 Chinese restaurants across the UK though apparently the number in recent years has been falling. Up and down the country Chinese food remains a favourite for many people with a wide choice of foods and styles to enjoy.
Now when we think of Champagne we may not necessarily think of takeaways, but for sure this fine sparkling wine can very much pair itself with finer Chinese cuisine and especially dishes that are authentic.
In London, you can not only enjoy the convenience of a Chinese meal by takeaway delivered by the likes of Just Eat, but you can scale things up to Michelin Star cuisine too. Following a call out by us at Glass of Bubbly to award winning Champagnes by email we got together five fine labels ready to pair alongside some fine Chinese cooking. The venue we chose to host our Champagne and Chinese food pairings was the new and popular Champagne Route bar set in the up-and-coming trendy area of Gauging Square, London Dock just moments from Tower Bridge with exclusive apartments and penthouses, beautifully landscaped open spaces, shops, bars and restaurants (nearest tube stations are Tower Hill and Wapping).
Pairing Champagne with foods is a growing passion for many. The versatility of this sparkling wine and the extensive styles you can choose from enables many labels to accompany many special dishes from desserts to main courses, fatty foods to spicy foods.
For this Chinese food and Champagne tasting and pairing we had the following five award winning labels:
Champagne Roger-Constant Lemaire Millésime 2011: “Having visited this family grower Champagne a few times now already I am very attached to the wines and the flavours they produce. Always explosive flavours with Roger-Constant Lemaire. The aromas are golden fruits, white mushroom and cream. The flavours are strong and awakening with dry yellow fruits, dried lemon slices and peach.”
Champagne Roger Brun Cuvée des Sires Millésime 2014 Brut: “Such a reliable producer from what many would say is the heartbeat of the Champagne region – Ay. The nose gives croissant / burnt croissant, creamy pastry, golden fruits. Yellow fruits and biscuit flavours. Allow it to come alive in the glass for a few moments and you will see continued improvement.”
Champagne Colette Bonnet 2014 Pinot Noir Extra-Brut: “Pop the cork to this Champagne and an exciting aroma of red berry fruits greet you. On the nose is relaxed cream and red fruits. A crisp flavour of green fruits, red berries and a touch of distant oak/burnt wood. This is an ideal gastronomic Champagne.”
Champagne Duval-Leroy Extra Brut Prestige Premier Cru NV: “Apple, yeast and cream on the nose. Touch dry flavours with citrus, apricot skin, chalk.”
Champagne Frerejean Frères Premier Cru Extra Brut Vintage 2006: “Fantastic butter and yellow fruits on the nose. Alive with flavours of apricots, pastry, citrus and a smooth moreish length. You can leave this Champagne in the glass for a good 15 minutes and it continues to improve… A sheer delight.”
We were lucky that Champagne Route hosted us where we were surrounded by countless fine examples of traditional method sparkling wines on show, probably one of the biggest collections on offer in London today. We also had their French chef Cezar who prepared the following dishes for us with fresh ingredients:
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients:
- Soy Sauce (dark)
- Corn Starch
- Dried red chillies
- Spring onions
- Apple vinegar
- Hoisin Sauce
- Chinese black vinegar
- Szechuan fresh chicken breast diced
Sesame Chicken Ingredients:
- Chinese rice vinegar
- Sesame Seeds
- Spring onion
- Fresh chicken breast diced
Aubergines (or you can also use Eggplant) Garlic Ingredients:
- Mini Aubergines / Eggplant
- Shaoxing wine
- Small red chillies
- Garlic cloves
Wonton Dumplings Ingredients:
- Sesame oil
- 12 ounce package / gyoza wrappers
- Pork meat for filling
Deep Fried Wonton Dumplings Ingredients:
- Sesame oil
- 12 ounce package / gyoza wrappers
- Duck meat filling
So how did the Champagne pair with the Chinese dishes? Below are the perfect pairings decided on the evening by myself. I was also accompanied by Paul (owner of Champagne Route), Gianni Ferrari (president of Club Epicure) and Oliver Walkey (Fizz cocktail journalist for Glass of Bubbly):
Champagne Roger-Constant Lemaire Millésime 2011 Premier Cru & Aubergine Garlic: “These two paired wonderfully together. It is a delicate dish with a punch from the red chillies and requires a likewise punchy Champagne to compete with it. The Roger-Constant Lemaire cuts through the heat of the dish to leave refreshing yellow fruits and the smooth texture of the aubergine with chilli reappearing faintly in the length.”
* Paul & Gianni stated that the Champagne Colette Bonnet 2014 Pinot Noir paired better with the aubergine garlic.
Champagne Roger-Constant Lemaire Millésime 2011 Premier Cru & Wonton Dumplings: “These paired well together enabling sweet green and yellow fruits to shine from the Champagne followed by subtle meat flavours from the pork filling. Palate cleanses nicely.”
Champagne Colette Bonnet 2014 Pinot Noir & Kung Pao Chicken: “Allows the savoury chicken flavours and fresh summer berry fruits to delight the palate with neither overpowering the other. Palate is cleansed and temptation grabs you to enjoy more.”
Champagne Duval-Leroy Extra-Brut Prestige NV & Wonton Dumplings Deep Fried: “The Duval-Leroy is crisp and somewhat holds dry flavours which work well against the oils from the dish so to leave delicate duck meat flavours and chalky / citrus / yellow floral notes from the wine.”
Champagne Frerejean Frères Premier Cru Extra Brut Vintage 2006 & Sesame Chicken: “Wonderful pairing. You get pleasing savoury honey flavours from the dish and butter croissant from the Champagne. These two delight the taste buds and dare I say improve each other thanks to their pairing.”
Our tasting proved that fine Champagne can certainly pair wonderfully well with Chinese cuisine both spicy and sweet options. What we see is that extra brut works well though vintage also offers a superb pairing.
On the evening it was agreed by all that the stand out Champagne was the Frerejean Frères Premier Cru Extra Brut Vintage 2006 and the best pairing was between the Champagne Colette Bonnet 2014 Pinot Noir & Aubergine Garlic and also the Champagne Frerejean Frères Premier Cru Extra Brut Vintage 2006 & Sesame Chicken.
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.