New Emissary

Chinese Food Pairings

Recent Features

New Emissary

Chinese Food Pairings

Is there a future for domestic wine-makers in overseas Chinese restaurants?

In the past few months, I’ve mentioned several times the booming wine market in China—particularly in places like Hong Kong and Shanghai—as well as the country’s own thriving wine industry. For example, it was a domestic selection, Great Wall wine (2002 Vintage, red and white), that Barack Obama and Hu Jintao sipped on at the much-publicized state dinner late last autumn in Beijing.

Well the story of China and its wine continues to evolve at a rapid pace. This month, Daily Wine News, in a piece about global increases in wine consumption, reported that although China currently still ranks eighth amongst the world’s top wine consuming countries, its wine-drinking rates went up a ‘staggering’ 80 percent between 2004 and 2008.

An engaging article in the Wall Street Journal this week concurs, (‘Giddy Time for Chinese Wines’), calling the country’s wine market the ‘fastest-growing’ globally, and reporting that it’s predicted that consumption in China will next year reach a billion bottles. It also reminds us that there are over 400 wineries in China, but that this wine hardly ever makes it onto the international market, with most ending up in Hong Kong and Macau.

Unimpressed reporter Stan Sesser goes on to suggest that the reason for this is likely largely because the quality of Chinese wines is nowhere near the level of those produced by more widely received markets like France and Italy, describing the East Asian nation’s wine industry as something ‘unique’ at best, with no rules to play by and offering products ‘murky’ in taste. I’m not sure it could be quite that bad if it’s fit for state dinners, but then I’m yet to have personally tried a wine made in China.


Digimist / Flickr

The piece wraps up with an interesting thought: that there’s still plenty of potential for Chinese wine exports—in the 44,000 licensed Chinese restaurants currently operating in America. Indeed, if outcomes from the recent Cathay Pacific competition in Hong Kong, as reported by Decanter magazine, are any indication, this could certainly be a viable forecast. Apparently, amongst some of the prize-winning pairings at the event were surprising choices such as a 2009 Wairau River Pinot Gris from New Zealand with Cantonese dim sum, Kung Pao Chicken with a 2007 Muscat, Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro from California and Peking Duck with a 2006 Sottano Judas Malbec from Argentina.

I know I like to have an Italian wine to accompany my Italian dinner. If Chinese wine-makers can find some palate-pleasing pairings in their products to suit the cuisine they know best, surely this could be a promising future market for them ahead.