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Dumplings and wine pairing – ask Decanter

What wine should you serve with your Chinese dumplings? The do's and don't's ahead of Chinese New Year...

Dumplings and wine pairing – at a glance

  • Champagne works particularly well with fried dumplings, or when serving with vinegar.
  • Think of ripe Chardonnays, or fruity rosés to go with your dumpling fillings.
  • The stronger the filling flavour, the harder to pair with a wine
  • Avoid heavy, tannic reds

When speaking of dumplings (or in Chinese ‘Jiaozi’), this encompasses a variety of fillings and flavours – from jiucai (garlic chives) and pork dumplings, baicai (Chinese cabbage) and pork dumplings to seafood dumplings.

‘If you want to pair your dumplings with wine, it’s better to choose light-flavoured fillings,’ said Jennifer Doherty MW, head of brand portfolio management at Summergate Fine Wines & Spirits.

‘The classic garlic, chive and pork dumplings, for example, are difficult to pair with wines due to their overpowering flavours.

‘Pork and cabbage, Sanxian (pork, prawn and eggs) and mushroom dumplings, on the other hand, are more delicate.’

‘I would pick a light and delicate white wine to go with something like pork and cabbage – I don’t think you want a red wine. Try a wine that’s got a little oak on it with good acidity – I’d go for a nice Bourgogne Chardonnay, maybe a Mâcon.’

‘Personally I love Rieslings, so I’d try a Kabinett—with refreshing acidity with a little bit of residual sugar, to pair with it.’


See also: Chinese food and wine pairing

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What about the sauce?

Classic sauces to serve with dumplings can include a mixture of soy sauce, Jiaozi vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and spice.

‘This is the benefit of making your own sauce,’ said Doherty. ‘You can adjust the levels of salt, sourness, and give it a little bit of roundness to achieve a nice balance.

‘It shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find a pairing wine if you prefer a more savoury sauce.

‘But if you prefer only vinegar as the sauce, finding a wine match will be more difficult, so try something with high acidity; Champagne could be a good option here.’

How are your dumplings cooked?

You may be asked whether you’d like your dumpling fried or boiled in a Chinese restaurant (although you are more likely to find fried dumplings in Japanese restaurants). You can also have your dumplings steamed in a dim-sum style.

If your dumplings are steamed or boiled, the skin turns soft while retaining the clean, doughy mouthfeel. Flavours of the filling tend to drop a little if dumplings are boiled in water, so good wines to choose could be a creamy aged Champagne, a ripe New World Chardonnay or a fruit forward Grenache or Zinfandel-based rose, especially when the dish is served warm.

Fiona Beckett also recommends blanc de blancs Champagne or a fino Sherry with dim sum, in her guide to wine and Chinese food pairing. 

Avoid big, heavy red wines as they would most certainly overpower the flavours, and tannins don’t tend to work well with the soft and sticky doughy skin.

A touch of residual sugar, however, can work well, especially with a meaty filling and seasoned with savoury, umami-rich soy sauce and Shaoxing wine.

Fried dumplings tend to pair better with wine, as the skin gets crisper; a bit of burn on the bottom adds even more to the texture. If done properly, the filling should remain soft inside.

As fried dumplings absorb some oil in the cooking, a chilled bottle of NV Champagne or dry English sparkling make a good match with fried dumplings, served cold or hot.

Editing by Ellie Douglas.


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