Toasting the Chinese New Year: Pairing South African Wines with Festive Delights

Toasting the Chinese New Year: Pairing South African Wines with Festive Delights

In the rich tapestry of celebrations, few are as vibrant and significant as the Chinese New Year. It's a time for family, reflection, and ushering in blessings for the year ahead. As detailed and encompassing as the festivities are, so too are the accompanying traditional dishes that symbolize fortune, luck, and prosperity. And what better, as we embark on a fresh journey, than to pair these cherished flavors with wines that echo the depth and complexity of South Africa's winemaking heritage?

As we delve into this symbolic journey, we'll explore how the robust character of South African wines marries beautifully with the essences of Chinese New Year delicacies. Whether it's the celebratory sparkle of a Cap Classique or the bold, fruit-driven notes of a Pinotage, there's a wine and a pairing to lift every spirit and satisfy every palate.

Understanding Flavour Profiles in Wine

Appreciating the art of pairing wine with food begins by understanding the fundamentals of flavor. When evaluating a wine, we look at its body (leggy or not), its acidity, tannins (for reds), alcohol content, and residual sugars. For our pairings, we're also considering the fruitiness and oakiness, which often define South African varietals. Each flavor aspect interacts with the taste components of the food, such as bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami, to either complement or contrast—and the results can be extraordinary.

Exploring the Cap Classique

South Africa’s answer to Champagne, Cap Classique, offers festive effervescence and layers of brioche and subtle citrus, often with a lean and minerally backbone. It's a wine that sings when paired with shellfish or cheese and, during the Chinese New Year, can add crescendo to dumplings or delicate vegetable spring rolls.

Embracing Chenin Blanc

The versatile Chenin Blanc, South Africa's diverse white wine hero, can be bright and zesty or richly ripe and complex. Its acidity cuts through greasy foods, making it a great foil for roasted meats and fried fare integral to the Chinese New Year feasts.

Savoring Pinotage

A uniquely South African grape, Pinotage offers a range from light and quaffable to seriously robust, with flavors of dark berries and a touch of smokiness. It’s a natural partner to the spicy, savory dishes central to the Chinese New Year spread.

Now, let's pair these prize South African wines with five iconic Chinese New Year dishes to elevate your palate this festive season.


Harmonizing with Harmony: Yusheng and Cap Classique

Yusheng, also known as the Prosperity Toss, is a vibrant raw fish salad mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. This dish is an interactive highlight where families and friends gather to toss the ingredients high in the air while expressing well-wishes for the year ahead.

Chinese lunar new year yusheng to pair with South African wines

Cap Classique Pairing: The effervescent nature of Cap Classique with its crisp apple and pear nuances, complements the fresh, clean flavors of Yusheng. The wine's zesty acidity and minerality cut through the richness of sesame oil and sweet plum sauce used in the dish, while the bubbles add an elegant complexity, mirroring the celebratory spirit of the occasion.


Coastal Cravings: Fried Prawns and Sauvignon Blanc

Fried Prawns, a coastal delicacy, are celebrated for their succulent texture and golden-brown crust. Tasting of the sea, these lightly battered treasures are a testament to the simplicity of beach fare at its finest.

Chinese lunar new year fried prawns to pair with South African wines

Sauvignon Blanc Pairing: The bright and herbaceous notes of a South African Sauvignon Blanc make it a prime companion for fried prawns. The wine's crisp acidity and hints of tropical fruit like passionfruit and gooseberry elevate the prawn's natural flavors without overwhelming them. A grassy note in the wine complements the seafood's briny edge, creating a harmonious blend that evokes the freshness of the ocean.

Rustic Elegance: Braised Pork Belly with Pinotage

Braised Pork Belly offers a delightfully indulgent experience, its meat – tender and rich, and its skin – gloriously crisp. This dish, slow-cooked to perfection, allows the full-bodied flavors to infuse every bite, creating a sumptuous, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Chinese lunar new year braised pork to pair with South African wines

Pinotage Pairing: An equally robust South African Pinotage, with its smoky and fruity profile, is an ideal accompaniment to braised pork belly. The slight sweetness of the wine, with undertones of plum and tobacco, stand up to the lush, savory nature of the pork, while its tannins bring balance to the dish's richness. The pairing of Pinotage with braised pork belly is one that promises to indulge the senses, complementing the complex flavors and enhancing the overall dining experience.

Subtle Harmony: Steamed Chicken with Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc

Steamed chicken, known for its delicate flavors and succulent texture, demands a wine that compliments without overpowering. The gentle steaming method preserves the chicken’s natural taste, allowing for a true appreciation of its lightly seasoned profile.

Chinese lunar new year steamed chicken to pair with South African wines

Chenin Blanc Pairing: A youthful South African Chenin Blanc with its bright acidity and hints of tropical fruits pairs wonderfully with the lightness of steamed chicken. The wine's crispness complements the subtleness of the meat, enhancing its natural flavors without dominating the palate.

Sauvignon Blanc Pairing: Alternatively, a crisp South African Sauvignon Blanc with its grassy and citrus notes offers a zesty complement that mirrors the lean quality of the chicken. Its herbaceous character aligns with common garnishes, such as cilantro or parsley, often used in steamed chicken dishes, creating an harmonious and refreshing dining experience.


Crispy Delights: Prawn Crackers and Chenin Blanc

Prawn Crackers, known for their addictive crunch and seafood-infused savoriness, are a popular snack enjoyed across Southeast Asia. These airy crisps are typically made from ground shrimp, tapioca starch, and occasionally spices that entice with a gentle heat.

Chinese lunar new year prawn crackers to pair with South African wines

Chenin Blanc Pairing: A well-chilled South African Chenin Blanc, recognized for its versatility and dynamic range of flavors from honeyed fruits to minerally undertones, is an excellent match for the salty-sweet profile of prawn crackers. The acidity and fruity notes of the wine cut through the crackers' light oiliness, cleaning the palate and enhancing the crackers' delicate shrimp flavor. A sip of this vibrant Chenin Blanc between bites ensures a well-rounded taste experience that dances between the snack's umami-rich character and the wine's refreshing finish.

Embracing Spice: Bak Kwa and Shiraz

Bak Kwa, a savory-sweet grilled meat jerky popular during Chinese New Year, is intensely flavored with spices and a honeyed glaze. Often compared to jerky, it's a chewy snack that's rich in umami and smoky undertones.

Chinese lunar new year Bak Kwa to pair with South African wines

Shiraz Pairing: When indulging in the rich, complex flavors of Bak Kwa, a South African Shiraz offers an exceptional pairing option. Its restrained fruit notes and distinct smoky minerality act as a counterbalance to the meat's sweet and spicy profile. The smokiness of the wine intertwines with the caramelized exterior of the Bak Kwa, while the firm, ripe tannins provide a smooth contrast to its dense texture. This pairing not only accentuates the flavors on the palate but also reflects the art of combining distinct culinary traditions with the finesse of South African winemaking.

The Essential Nian Gao with Pinotage

Nian Gao, a sticky rice cake, symbolizes progress and the promise of a better year. It's steamed and then either pan-fried to a crisp exterior or cut into thick slices that are enjoyed as is.

Chinese lunar new year Nian Gao to pair with South African wines

Pinotage Pairing: The dark fruit and smoky notes of a Pinotage harmonize with the caramelized edges of fried Nian Gao. The wine's velvet undertones complement the cake's sticky texture, offering a significant depth of flavor with each savory-sweet nibble.

Pairing wine with your favorite foods is a blend of science and art, and when it comes to Chinese New Year celebrations, the resonance between South African wines and traditional delicacies creates a compelling symphony for the senses. So as you gather with family and friends in the spirit of a new lunar cycle, consider these pairings not just for their taste, but for the narrative they add to your festivities.

In a year meant for personal and collective advancement, the fusion of cultures through culinary and viniculture can set the stage for anticipation and joy. Toast to the beginning of the new year with South African wines, and let them enhance the stories and connections that make the Chinese New Year a cherished, unifying celebration across the globe.

This New Year, may your celebrations be filled with the clink of glasses, the warmth of community, and the harmonious flavor profiles of South African wines interwoven with the heritage of Chinese delicacies.


We’ve extended our flagship varietals discount until 25th Feb. See some of the wines that you can enjoy a discount when you purchase by the 25th!

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