Wine Dharma

DharMag January 2012 Waiting for the new year on a Dragon cloud

Condimento di salsa di soia, sesamo, aglio, base della cucina orientale The Alfa and the Omega of the Asian cuisines The Chinese new year is around the corner, the new moon will arrive at 03.40 p.m on 23 January kicking off the Dragon’s year, the 4709th Chinese year. What better opportunity to dress that flaming dragon costume which have been laying in your wardrobe for years and try some pairings between our beloved wine and Asian cuisines. But we will not taste only Peking ducks, because the big event involves all the East Asia: we are going to tackle a lots of cuisines: Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, from Singapore and Taipei.

Here are some advises before starting with the pairings. Break down the dishes into cardinal components, because it’s the sauce, or ingredients like century eggs and stinky fermented tofu, that dictates what wine you have to pair with. It doesn’t matter if your dumplings are stuffed with chicken, shark or pork if you slap on them a supernova of Kimchi…

In this regard, let’s start to familiarize with some flavors that will we will find in many recipes. Garlic. Sweet and bitter tendency, monolithic taste-olfactory persistence, racy aromaticity. Soy sauce. It’s the key of everything. The huge amounts of sweet & salty dishes of these cuisines comes from the complex and conflicting flavor of this wonder. Tastiness and and sweet tendency fused in a marine suggestion. Sesame’s seeds and oil. Bitter tendency and greasiness.

Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle. This wine, form Valle d'Aosta has a saltiness so pumped that can match also a Miso dressing Miso (味噌) and Doenjang (된장). The names are different, but essentially we are speaking about fermented soy bean paste, although the Korean one is much more thundering and with bean’s fragments inside. We have a lot of saltiness, umami, caramelized persistence and a undertone of mellow acidity.

Ok, now put some sauce in a bowl, mince the garlic, add some drops of oil, a handful of seeds, a spoon of paste, a pinch of sugar, mix together and taste the essential seasoning which you have to deal with every bite. Summarizing, these are the features that the wine should have. Tastiness: mineral flavors to counter the sweet halo. Intensity and eventually Aromaticity, so that it can stand spicy dishes, but with the right Softness, needed to marry the bitter hint and above all the saltiness of soy sauce.

Unless is scheduled an apocalyptic Korean barbecue, avoid muscle and tannic wines. Which doesn’t mean that Amarone and Cabernet Sauvignon are out of the game, but only that if we want to choose these kind of wines, they must have at least five years under their belt. Also because Korean BBQ is quite delicate and with sweet fruity nuances that are in a perfect Zen harmony each other, so keep your Tannant and Sagrantino for a fight with a bloody bife de chorizo. Not to mention that the candied fruit notes of an aged wine will nicely fit with dishes that are balsamic per se, like smoked duck (zhāngchá yā) or dōng pō ròu, fried pork belly stewed in soy sauce and wine.

rice, spinach, kimchi, salad, Ssamjang, Korean dinner, kimbap The red sauce is Ssamjang: great for a kimbap, a seaweed roll with rice Beware of salt and piquancy, because they are everywhere and they contribute to increase the fire hazard. When you use sauces, miso, kimchi, and all the dried fish paste and powders, like Thai Pla ra (ปลาร้า), keep in mind that these two elements are piling up. Tannins and alcohol get emphasized by both, therefore if the dressing is very aggressive don’t face them down, but choose low alcohol wines with fresh notes, also sweetish, to extinguish the fire, or a sparkling wine to wash the mouth. Even better if the wine has all these features, like Prosecco, Malvasia, Moscato, Montepulciano Cerasuolo, Lambrusco, Bonarda, Gutturnio and in general all off dry rosé. Moreover, the plummy saltiness of these wines will get along with the infinity of sweet and salty recipes, like sweet and sour pork or pineapple chicken.

Rather then on pure and simple tannins you should bet on acidity and tastiness, citrus fragrances, succulent fruitiness, white wine that have been made by long maceration or with a soft oaking, because often is noticeable a light greasy tendency that we have to counteract, however without ruin the subtlety of the dish. So don’t forget about very aromatic wines, like Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir, full of the same spices—ginger, cinnamon, fennel, cardamom—that we can find also in these cuisines.

Heavy oaked wines are tricky. Again, salt and hotness can ignite your tongue. Unless the oak is fully and velvety embedded in the wine filigrane is more of a hassle than anything else… By the way pair smoked or grilled food and dishes with hazelnuts, peanuts, almond or a lots of shiitake mushrooms to equalize toasting and bitter notes.

Korean mael, kimchi, bulgogi, Bindaetteok With so many flavors to choose focus on the strongest ones, follow the banchan, side dishes Our last advice. Despite the fact that these cuisines, where wine is not a staple food, represent a great challenge and probably the new frontier for pairing lovers, never force the hand of the pairing Divinity. Matching all flavors, when you have to deal with so many spices, cuts of meat mixed with fishes and opposing aromas splashing in a lake of Mala-napalm sauce (麻辣), is not an easy task. So, let’s start with harmonic matches then switch to some Yin and Yang style pairings, ride the Dragon and you will find the right wine.

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