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Wine Pairing Ideas for 5 Essential Asian Dishes

From chicken rice to kimchi and laksa to sushi, there is a wine to go with every Asian dish.
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For decades, European countries like France, Italy and Spain have dominated the global wine trade, but New World rising stars such as Chile are leaving an indelible mark on the international wine scene. In key markets like Japan, Chile has even overtaken France to become the number one country of origin of imported wine.
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Based in Singapore, British native Guy Nussey joined Concha y Toro in 2007 as its regional director, traveling across Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia to promote and distribute the company’s portfolio of Chilean wines.

In his extensive travels across the region, he’s developed a fondness for Asian food, naming Thai cuisine as his favorite in Southeast Asia. “I love the aromatic flavors and combinations of sweet, sour and spice paired with a large glass of my preferred white varietal, Riesling,” he shares.
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“Due to its importance as a market, I travel to Japan more than any country in Asia, which is fantastic because it is also one of my favorite countries in terms of cuisine,” he says. He describes the time a Japanese chef had sushi specially created to match one of his favorite wines from Concha y Toro, Don Melchor. “It was something I would not have thought possible until I tasted the chef’s creation, which used smoked eel as its key ingredient.”
Concha y Toro's portfolio of Chilean wines include the 130-year-old Don Melchor.
Concha y Toro's portfolio of Chilean wines include the 130-year-old Don Melchor.
Here, he shares his favorite wine pairings for classic Asian dishes like laksa and Hainanese chicken rice, as well as sashimi and sushi in Japan. Nussey showcases some great wine pairing ideas for even Korean barbecue with all its spicy, fermented accoutrements.
From left: Casillero Del Diablo Viognier, Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Rulos del Alto Block 23 Riesling and La Chamiza Martin Alsina Malbec.
From left: Casillero Del Diablo Viognier, Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Rulos del Alto Block 23 Riesling and La Chamiza Martin Alsina Malbec.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

“The style of chicken rice can vary and it really depends on how much chile and soy sauce you like. I like mine with more soya sauce and so I would go with a cool climate Pinot Noir from the New World with generous fruit flavors, rather than the more savory Burgundian style. Limari in Chile, with its Pacific Ocean exposure and mineral soils, produces some great value examples such as the Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Pinot Noir.”

Laksa

“I would consider going for an aromatic white wine with some sweetness, potentially a Casillero Del Diablo Viognier with its fresh and intense aromas with notes of fruits like apricots and cherimoya (Chilean custard apples), a soft touch of vanilla and a sweet and long finish. If you really like to turn up the heat, then an off-dry Riesling such as Leitz Berg Kaisersteinfels Rudesheimer Riesling Kabinett from the Rheingau is a perfect match with its balance of acidity and sweetness against the rich spicy coconut broth.”
Riesling and Chenin Blanc make good pairings for spicy pad thai.
Riesling and Chenin Blanc make good pairings for spicy pad thai.

Sushi and Sashimi

“With such clean and subtle flavors, you could go for the local match of a Japanese Koshu such as Château Mercian Koshu Kirioka, but with richer seafood like fatty toro, I would look for a wine that exhibits the same characteristics. The Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, now produced in the cooler climate of Limari on the edge of the Atacama Desert, has given rise to a Chardonnay that even the "ABC" (anything-but-Chardonnay) crowd would appreciate: the gentle use of oak-aging gives richness to this ripe and vibrant wine, which offers flavorful aromas of white pear, toasted hazelnut and mineral notes.”
Fatty cuts of sashimi like toro go well with Chilean chardonnay.
Fatty cuts of sashimi like toro go well with Chilean chardonnay.
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Korean Barbecue

“The difficulty in pairing Korean barbecue is not so much the grilled meats but its accompaniments such as kimchi. I would look for a wine with good acidity and softer tannins as firm tannins and spice are not a good combination. Syrah/Shiraz has the natural spice to counter the spice in kimchi—Australia’s Barossa produces some great wines but now Chile is also producing some exceptional Syrah such as Matetic EQ from the San Antonio Valley with its bold black fruits, violet and spice aromas, and smoothly elegant tannins.

Otherwise, go for the La Chamiza Martin Alsina Malbec from the Uco region of Argentina, another country very well known for its barbecue. This wine comes from vines which are almost 100 years old and the naturally low yields produce deep concentration, perfectly ripe red fruits and silky tannins, but with a freshness from the acidity that cuts through the fat of the Korean barbecued pork or beef.”

RECOMMENDED READING: Unusual Wine Grape Varieties Found Around The World
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