Oct 27 2012
Food and wine pairings between our French wines and Chinese cuisine are a real challenge to overcome, especially for those wines that want to enter the Chinese market and maintain a sustainable position there.
Indeed, with the multitude of wines now available to the Chinese – Bordeaux, Burgundy, New World wines, Italian or Spanish wines, and now even good Chinese wines such as Silver Heights, it is very important to demonstrate that:
- the wine is suitable for Chinese cooking
- for each specific dish there is a specific wine. For the Chinese, the food is more important than the wine. It is therefore essential to take each classic Chinese dish and associate it with this or that specific wine reference, so that the wine itself becomes a classic « Chinese » reference. This is how the marketing process works.
Making good food and wine pairings is very complex and requires skills which are as hard to find in France as in China. Indeed, one must combine a good Chinese restaurant with a strong Chinese sommelier, who understands the tastes of the Chinese but also masters the large offering of French wines. While it is difficult to find a good Chinese restaurant in France, it is at least as difficult to find a Chinese sommelier who knows the intricacies of all our French « Grands Crus », and can distinguish between two Médoc or two Saint Emilion. Once the pairings are selected and prepared, it still takes a specialized photographer and food stylist to present the food.
We thought long and hard about the question. A comment often made by the winemakers: as we are expensive « Grands Crus », we are often associated with expensive dishes such as shark fin soup and other endangered animals. Yet, on the one hand, these dishes are not necessarily good, and on the other they are rare and expensive but appeal much more to notions of medecine than to the talent of a culinary Chef. This dish may bring happiness and a long life, that dish may guarantee sexual pleasure … Such types of pairing food and wines are limited to matching the price of wine and food, and have little concern for the quality of the gastronomy.
In addition, we needed to decide whether the food and wine pairings should be made in China, or in France with Chinese cooks, even if it meant a lower quality cuisine. The issue was resolved by the Shangri La, which opened its Shang Palace restaurant in early 2012, with a real chef – Frank Xu of Shenzhen – who came to the restaurant with his Chinese brigades. At last, we had found a Chinese restaurant worthy of the name in Paris.
The Shangri la also provided us with extraordinary competence in the person of its sommelier Zi, who was trained in France with the greatest French wines, practices them daily thanks to the menus of the prize-winning Shangri-la restaurants, and has an instinctive knowledge of Chinese cuisine.
Finally, we called on photographer Yoshi Omori to magnify the work of the Sommelier and of the Chef through iconic photos of the dishes, assisted (with regards to food styling) by The Last Supper Club in the person of Theophile Playoust.
Here are some wine pairings to illustrate this article:
Dim Sum Siu Mai with Taittinger Cuvée Prestige
Peking Duck with Château Cheval Blanc 2006
Beggar’s Chicken with Pichon Longueville le Baron 2000
Braised Lobster with Corton Charlemagne