Hong Kong’s summer are hot, humid and unbearable. I don’t feel like drinking red wine in summer, even in a freezing-cold restaurant; it just doesn’t feel right (like people eating hotpot in summer with the air conditioning blasting over their heads – what a waste of energy!). Most people, sadly, switch to auto mode and reach for red wine when having (especially) Chinese meals, regardless of the dish. But open your eyes and you will find there are actually a lot of interesting whites out there other than Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that beautifully complement Chinese meals in the hot weather.
Riesling from Germany is the most versatile white wine because it can be made into a wide range of styles, from a refreshing, sparkling, crisp, light and dry wine to the more complex and age-worthy Spätlese and Auslese semi-sweet wines, which are perfect with heavier Northern Chinese dishes. Because of climatic conditions, Riesling from New World countries such as Australia is usually dry with lively citrus aromas, making it perfect with light meals or on its own to cool down in the blazing heat. The best Riesling from Australia comes from Clare Valley.
The other recommended summer white is Chenin Blanc from South Africa. It can be made into a sparkling, refreshing and fruity white that is great as an aperitif or enjoyed with light meals. Barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc is similar to barrel-fermented Chardonnay in terms of style and ageing potential, but Chenin Blanc has the benefit of higher natural acidity, making it a better white to match with heavier dishes because the high acidity lifts the palate.
Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy and Pinot Gris from Alsace are made from the same grape, they but have different styles. Pinot Grigio is lighter and more refreshing, while Pinot Gris has a more intense flavour. Australia and New Zealand make both styles, and the wines are labelled either as Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, depending on the style.
In general, Old World white wines often make for a good food match because of their subtle flavours that complement the food rather than overpower it. Albariño from Rías Baixas in Spain is a good choice with Cantonese dishes because both the wine and cuisine have diverse yet non-dominating flavours. Other European varieties you can explore are Verdelho from Spain and Portugal, Fiano and Catarratto from Italy, Furmint from Hungary and Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane from Georgia, just to name a few. Most New World whites emphasise varietal flavours and tend to be fruitier.
If you like sashimi and sushi, Koshu from Japan is a great choice. It’s an indigenous grape that is as delicate as the raw fish. Semillon from Hunter Valley in Australia is a good backup, along with a crisp, sparkling white.When it comes to food and wine pairing, lighter whites go with lighter food such as cold noodles, salads and seafood, whereas heavier white styles go with food with bolder flavours. To welcome summer and to help you to get through the heat, go get a few bottles of white!
For more wine articles like this, like Foodie on Facebook