It's that time of year again when mooncakes make their rounds during the Mid-Autumn festival. We all know it is a holiday to celebrate the full moon and family, but it is also a time to celebrate the harvest, so food plays an important part.
When I hear food, I think wine! Drinking wine fermented with osmanthus flowers has long been a tradition in China. Drinking wine signifies a family reunion and a happy life. There seems to be about 10 foods or so that are typically eaten for Mid-Autumn festival. While I wouldn't take my chopsticks out for just any of these foods, there are a few I would go out of my way to eat and I know just the wine to pair with them!
While mooncakes seem to be the highlight of Mid-Autumn Festival, I've decided to help you pair wines with alternative dishes that families typically enjoy over this hoilday period. Dishes will include ingredients that emphasise the celebration of the harvest - pumpkins, chestnuts, taro, persimmons, sweet potato, walnuts and mushrooms. These all centre around traditional celebratory foods like crab, pork, and duck.
1. Soy-Braised Fall Mushrooms With Chestnuts
This dish symbolises the arrival of mushrooms and sweet chesnuts to this year's harvest.
Wine Pairing: Oaked Chardonnay, Champagne or Burgundy Pinot Noir.
Oaked Chardonnay mirrors the rich, creamy texture of the dish and the chestnuts will compliment the nutty character infused by the oak.
Champagne will enhance and echo the umami flavours from the soy sauce.
Burgundy Pinot Noir picks up on the earthiness of the mushrooms, making the flavour bolder and more rounded.
2. Shanghainese Sticky Red-Cooked Pork Belly
In Chinese culture, pork symbolises abundance and wealth and therefore pork is always a part of any celebratory dish.
Wine Pairing: German Riesling, Beaujolais, Southern Rhone Red Blend (Grenache dominant)
German Riesling has a delicious acidity that beautifully cuts through the fattiness of the pork belly.
Beaujolais is a light and fruity red wine that is easily enjoyable with the light texture of the pork.
Southern Rhone Red Blend pairs nicely with a rich dish like this. A Grenache based blend is the perfect partner as it's a heavier red that will bind well with the richness and boldness of this dish.
3. Steamed Crab With Chinkiang Vinegar and Ginger
With Mid-Autumn Festival signaling the arrival of Autumn, it also signals the opening of hairy crab season in China.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio
Sauvignon Blanc has a juicy acidity which is the key to any crab dishes. To top it off, this dish is accompanied by Chianking Vinegar which makes this pairing a match made in heaven.
Pinot Grigio has the combination of tropical fruit notes with steely minerality and racy acidity which enhances the crab’s sweet and briny meat.
4. Stir-Fried Seasonal Green Vegetables
With any Chinese family gathering there will be two famous vegetable dishes that will be served regardless of the occasion. "Gai Lan" also known as Chinese Broccoli and or Baby "Bok Choi" known as Chinese Cabbage.
Wine Pairing: Grüner Veltiner
Grüner Veltliner's classic notes of savouriness, green tones with celeriac and white pepper elevate the fresh flavours of these great green veggies and bring brightness to the finish.
5. Smoked Osmanthus Flower Duck
Duck symbolises happiness and fidelity and is an important delicacy amongst Chinese culture, customs and traditions.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewürztraminer
Pinot Noir is a duck's best friend. Duck is a fatty meat that tends to need a wine with some sharpness and acidity to cut through and some ripe fruit to contrast with the rich flesh. There's nothing better than a Pinot to do just that.
Merlot is packed with red fruit flavours with aromatic spice notes. With a lovely cherry quality to them, hints of vanilla and slight dill notes imparted from the oak, Merlot creates a soft wine that will not over power the duck, nor will it whimper either. A good Bordeaux Merlot will also have a bit of earthiness to match that bit of gaminess found in duck.
Gewürztraminer is bold, rich and very aromatic which will compliment a duck dish very well. The combination of the aromatic Gewürztraminer and the fragrance of the Osmanthus Flower will leave your senses tingling for a long time.
Mooncakes symbolise a Family Reunion. In Chinese culture, roundness symbolises completeness and togetherness and the full moon symbolises prosperity.
As we know there are many varieties of mooncakes that range from savoury to sweet. Below I have broken down what wines pair well with each style.
- Savoury Mooncakes (which are generally meat based): Sangiovese
These rather light, fresh wines cut right through the lard and meatiness of the mooncakes and accentuate the original flavours.
- Sweet Mooncakes: Semi-Sweet Sparkling Wines (Moscato D'Asti)
Moscato D'Asti is a light sparkling wine that should have enough sweetness to match that of the mooncake and also offer good acidity and freshness to cleanse the palate.
Fortified and Sweet Wines are also a very good pairing choice as they have richer aromas that can range from dried apricot, raisins and caramel to honey, marmalade and vanilla. These wines are concentrated, smooth and layered with texture. As a pairing, these wines will bring out the savoury, sweet and umami notes within mooncakes. Also the savoury-sweet balance between both the wine and the mooncake is extremely enjoyable no matter what mooncake you choose.
Now let the festivities begin! I hope that you are able to find the perfect wine to enjoy over Mid-Autumn festival this year with your families. After all, this is the most celebrated holiday in the Chinese calendar so best you go out and get that perfect bottle.