Being a food blogger has its perks, and one of them was landing a seat at the Grandi Marchi Italian Wine Tasting hosted at the Jockey Club in Hong Kong with Asian Palate’s Jeannie Cho Lee, Master of Wine. Though I can hold my own against a sommelier in any Michelin 3 star restaurant, I’m not a wine expert (not a novice either), and it’s always good to go to wine tastings to learn from those with more sophisticated wine palates.
Jeannie Cho Lee has such a palate. In fact, she is the first Asian woman ever to have achieved a Master of Wine distinction, and she makes her bread and butter off being THE authority on wines for the Asian palate. So for the Grandi Marchi wine tasting, we paired some of Italy’s finest wines with some of Hong Kong’s most traditional Cantonese dishes: wonton soup, steamed fish with soy sauce, roasted duck, and roasted pork.
Basically, Ms. Lee argued that umami from soy along with MSG are nearly universal to Cantonese cuisine and give Cantonese food a distinct flavour that needs to be taken into account when pairing with wines. However, while there were some decent Grandi Marchi wines, including favourites of mine such as Masi and Antinori, the pairing with wonton soup, steamed soy fish, and roasted duck and pork just didn’t work for me.
Perhaps it was because the Jockey Club serves THE WORST Cantonese food in all of Hong Kong and that the food served was nearly inedible. But even if the food had been half decent, generally I’m not a fan of pairing wines with Chinese or Asian cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I like my wines, just not necessarily with Asian food, and not all the time.
I never really shared in the universal obsession with drinking wines with every meal, and have long been a believer in the wide range of pairing possibilities beyond wines. Call it a matter of personal preference, but I don’t think MSG and umami flavours like soy mix well with the tannins in wines, and there’s a reason why Chinese and other Asian cuisines have traditionally always been paired with tea, beer, and other alcohols such as sake, sochu, etc. Jeannie Cho Lee might be the expert on wines and pairings for the Asian palate, but from the Grandi Marchi Grand Tasting, the best part for me was the wines, but not as pairings, and as for the food, for all you non-Jockey Club members, you’re not missing out on anything.