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When the wind chill factor starts to climb and the temperature drops, nothing beats a steaming hot pot which can warm you up from inside and out (and if you lean over it, it'll give you a facial to boot).|
Hot pot has long been the realm of baijiu and beer, but it doesn't have to be. If you want to try a bit of Western drinking with this 1,000-year-old Chinese food tradition wine expert Martin Hao, Wine Education and Training Manager of ASC Fine Wines offers up some tips, helping you skip the less than tasty trial and error of pairing.
Tip 1: You choose either Champagne or sparkling wine
Generally speaking, the food put into the average winter hot pot can be categorized into meat (beef and lamb), seafood and vegetable, and the fresh taste of champagne or sparkling wines can’t go wrong with almost any of the above.
“Champagne and sparkling wine have high acidity," Hao explains. "Most hot pot soups are greasy and oily, so the acidity cuts the fattiness of meat and seafood as well as the oil in the soup. Meanwhile, the acidity can add more flavor to vegetable just like lemon juice in salad.”
Tip 2: Western wine and food pairing rules of thumb apply
Since the food to be put into the pot can be categorized into meat (beef and lamb), seafood and vegetable, you can also choose wines just like you would in a Western restaurant.
Meats can often be paired with a red. Hao suggests a “fruity light red with light tannin and medium acidity, such as Gamay (Beaujolais), Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and NZ Pinot Noir."
"A light red could be a good match for light lamb,” he continues.
Hao also suggests slightly chilling the wine, so the contrasting temperature will also add more texture to the meal.
Beware though, not all reds can go with hot pot meat.
“Avoid red wines with high tannins,” warns Hao. “In this kind of dish, tannins can make your meal taste a bit metalic when combined with the meat fat.”
As for seafood, the Western dining rule of thumb applies here too: choose a crisp white wine such as German Riesling, Chablis, NZ Sauvignon Blanc.
Acidity cuts the fat in the seafood, and more importantly "balances the saltiness from seafood and sauces," says Hao.
But be sure to avoid oaky white wines like Chardonnay, he recommends, as the oak flavors will be too strong making the fresh seafood in your hot pot seem bitter.
Tip 3: Don’t add vinegar, garlic or scallion
Although its usually delicious to throw in some vinegar into a hot pot sauce or the broth itself, the liquid is a bad addition when you're drinking wine because it makes your drink taste sour.
"The acidic taste of the vinegar will ruin any wine,” says Hao. He adds that “foods such as garlic or Chinese green onion, which have strong flavors like vinager, will also overpower the fragrance of wines.”
Tip 4: Keep things mellow
"If you are into really spicy hot pot," says Hao, acknoledging that many people gravitate towards the sweat-inducing Sichuan and Hunan-style hot pots in the winter, "just forget about the wine. The only choice is beer."
Keep to a cold brew and hit one of the many Shanghai wine bars after for your vino fix.
Tip 5: Call ahead
Make sure you call ahead to check the restaurants wine list or if you can bring your own bottles, although you will surely confuse the venue at first, many are amenable to the extra bottle on the table.