The Most Appetizing Wine Pairings with Chinese Food

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Dish of Chinese chicken with glass of red wine in background

One of the most consistently popular varieties of food in the United States is Chinese. This should not be surprising when you take into consideration just how diverse the foods and flavors are within this type of cuisine. 

From the hints of vinegar present in the sweet and spicy General Tso's chicken, to the salty-sweet flavors of sesame chicken, there's something that works well for everyone...and something that works well with every wine, too.

How to Pair Wine with Chinese Food

Wine and Chinese food may not necessarily be a well-known couple, but once you learn how to pair wines with the complex flavors of Chinese cuisine, you'll find that the two can make quite the dynamic duo.

When pairing wine with food in general, Wine Folly suggests following some tried-and-true tips for more consistent pairings. Their guidelines include:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine and foods should have equivalent flavor intensities.
  4. Red wines pair best with boldly flavored meats.
  5. White wines pair well with lighter meats (like fish and chicken).
  6. Balance bitter wines with fat.
  7. Match the wine to sauces rather than the meat.
  8. Note that white, sparkling, and rose wines create contrasting patterns.
  9. Note that red wines create more harmonious couplings.

These are not necessarily concrete rules you must follow, but they do function as solid starting points for pairing wines with foods. 

China Wine Competition also recommends sticking to German or Alsatian varieties if you're a fan of white wines — this means Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc — and bold reds like New World Cabernet and Malbec

Wine and Chinese Food Pairings 

Egg Rolls and Franciacorta Sparkling

No order of Chinese food is complete without a side of egg rolls; they are a classic carryout staple. Given that they are such a popular choice among Chinese food lovers, we thought it rather important to include them on our list of food and wine pairings. 

The next time you bite into a crispy fried pocket full of shredded cabbage, pork, and vegetables, chase it with a few sips of sparkling wine from Franciacorta. Wine Folly recommends pairing this Italian sparkling wine with egg rolls because it's low in alcohol and high in acidity that will cut through the food's oil.  

Vegetable Lo Mein and Sauvignon Blanc

Vegetable lo mein is usually marked by the strong taste of soy sauce. According to China Wine Competition, a good Sauvignon Blanc has the power to cut right through these salty flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect accompaniment, with primary fruit flavors of lime, green apple, passionfruit, and white peach, along with hints of bell pepper, jalapeno, gooseberry, and grass. 

General Tso's Chicken and Gamay

Even those who know next to nothing about Chinese food and stumble through the foreign names and characters on a takeout menu know of the goodness that is General Tso's chicken. These chicken thighs are coated in hoisin sauce, making them at once savory and sweet. China Wine Competition suggests that such quintessentially Chinese flavors pair well with a glass of the lovely and light-bodied Gamay. Gamay is a close cousin of Pinot Noir, and it's best known for its floral aromas and earthy flavor notes. 

Sweet and Sour Chicken and Moscato

A delightfully sweet sparkling, Moscato is marked by hints of meyer lemon, mandarin orange, pear, orange blossom, and honeysuckle. Sweet and sour chicken is, as its name implies, both sweet and sour, though occasionally it can boast a subtle spiciness. The flavors of this dish and the low-in-alcohol Moscato mingle quite well together, making for a great food and wine pairing.

Fried Rice and Riesling

Fried rice is quite the functional food, as it can be enjoyed as a side order or on its own as an entree. This dish gives you everything you need —vegetables, protein, and carbs — with all of the ingredients cooked together in a wok or on a griddle. 

All that's missing are the lime, meyer lemon, pineapple, and apricot flavors and high acidity levels of a good German Riesling. Enjoy this wine sweet or dry, depending on your personal preference. 

Conclusion: Corking Our Thoughts

You can sacrifice quality in some aspects of life, but we don't believe in cutting corners when it comes to enjoying wine. You want a variety that will partner well with your food, of course, but it's more important that it pairs well with you. Now that you have a better idea of what kinds of wine to look for the next time you treat yourself to Chinese takeout, shop with JJ Buckley Fine Wines, so that you can try each of these pairings. 

If the idea of sifting through webpage after webpage of information seems daunting, consider soliciting advice from a JJ Buckley wine consultant. We can make the search for a new favorite wine a much simpler and more enjoyable pursuit and will answer any questions you may have about wine pairings, tasting notes, and reviews. We can also tailor recommendations based on your palate and preferences, and send you exclusive offers on the world's best wines.