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January 24, 2010

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Beaujolais and dim sum good partners

INTEGRATING Western wines into Chinese dining culture is a challenging, yet often rewarding, experience. Dim sum is more than just a meal; it's a communal and social event.

More varied and interesting than the traditional Western brunch which first became popular in the late 1800s, dim sum is one of the best ways to spend a weekend late morning or afternoon.

While Chinese purists may insist on only tea to accompany the numerous dishes, I'd like to suggest something different - wine! But what wines can be enjoyed with dim sum?

There are several good answers to this question, including Champagne or sparkling wine and even a nice ros', but another lovely solution is Beaujolais.

A typical dim sum meal often consists of steamed, roasted, fried and deep-fried dishes that may be seafood, meats, vegetables and starches. This variety of cooking methods and ingredients poses a challenge to wines, a challenge that the attributes of Beaujolais satisfies very nicely.

The generous fruit in high-quality Beaujolais wines, along with their good acidity, makes them very versatile in pairing with foods, something essential when enjoying the numerous different dishes in a typical dim sum meal.

Furthermore, good Beaujolais wines will cleanse your mouth, removing any greasiness while pleasingly accentuating the many varied textures of dishes.

Some classic dim sum dishes that pair beautifully with Beaujolais are shrimp dumplings, turnip cakes, tofu skin rolls, shao mai (small meat dumplings), assorted roasted meats, steamed pork ribs, spring rolls and beef meat balls.

A personal favorite is chicken's feet with Beaujolais.

Instead of the popular Beaujolais Nouveau, I recommend the higher quality "villages" and cru level Beaujolais. When you see the word "villages" on the label it denotes a higher standard of Beaujolais, a wine with more depth, complexity and character.

The fruitiness of gamay grape is still there but so are added layers of flavors and a longer, more satisfying finish. Even better are the cru Beaujolais that are named after villages in the region.

These stand at the very top of the Beaujolais quality pyramid. There are 10 cru Beaujolais wines and the best of them are Moulin-a-Vent, Morgan and Chenas. When choosing a "villages" or cru Beaujolais the most important factor is the producer.

Top producers available in Shanghai include Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf. Also, it is important to remember to chill your Beaujolais before serving. I suggest about 12 degrees Celsius for the "villages" and 14 degrees for the cru wines.

Dim sum aficionados tend to enjoy food in stages, starting with lighter steamed dishes, then stewed or roasted and deep-fried followed by the sweet dessert snacks. About the only time you really have trouble enjoying Beaujolais with these dishes is when you reach sweets like egg tart and almond pudding.

The acidity that makes it suitable with preceding dishes doesn't work so well with sweets. At this stage, it's a good idea to finally turn to tea. But most other dishes work well with Beaujolais so next time you want to enhance the small dishes of dim sum don't forget it. Chinese brunch has never been so fun!


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