Chinese simplicity

Possibly the Chinese have hit the nail on the head as far as food pairing is concerned. Here in Spain there used to be a misplaced desire to 'marry' wine with food (maridaje), and wine tastings were often based on this principle. But it was never going to work.

While the quality of the wines served at a tasting are pretty foreseeable, what may go on behind the scenes in the kitchen is less consistent, and many a wine-pairing/tasting has been spoilt by the shortcomings of the chef.

No-one disputes there may be some sort of discipline involved in matching food with wine, but when eating in a restaurant the normal way of going about such things is to let the sommelier choose the wine once you have selected your food.

A certain class of wine snob has a problem with this, but the sommelier knows more than the average customer, and it is up to him or her to translate your preferences into the perfect accompanying wine. With the plus that in the event of a mismatch, you will get to taste another wine for free.

The Chinese don't do such complicated stuff. Ask them if they 'marry' food with wine and you will get a flat "no", and while this is partially owing to the difficulty of identifying wines that can hold their own against the gelatinous sauces and subtle flavours, the real reason is that for most Chinese drinkers, wine is red. Period.

In a fight to choose a suitable partner for most Chinese food, the overall winner would be a fruity white, possibly a Chardonnay/Gewürztraminer blend, although there are those who favour beer, cava or vodka.

Simon Zhou, head of one of China's largest distributors, makes no bones about it: "The concept of matching food with wine based on body, acidity and texture, is non-existent here. Chinese wine drinkers do not care. Only five per cent of the wine drunk is white, and the rest is red, regardless of the food."