Wine Questions

Dining on Chinese New Year

What wines should you choose?

Chinese New Year (CNY) is also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, and is the biggest festival in China, with a seven-day long holiday. As China's most colourful annual event, the traditional CNY celebration lasts longer – up to two weeks – and peaks around the Lunar New Year's Eve.

Like Christmas in Western cultures, it's a time to be home with family, catching up, cooking, enjoying a banquet together, and of course, enjoying a drink or two.

Popular Chinese New Year foods include spring rolls, dumplings, steamed fish, longevity noodles and nian gao (Chinese New Year Cake), but duck also features. So what wine should you choose to go with duck? 

Duck and Pinot Noir

When it comes to finding the perfect wine match for duck, there's one wine that almost all winelovers always turn to first, and that's Pinot Noir. It's one of those food and wine marriages that just works so well. But why is this?

Pinot and Peking Duck

One of the most successful combinations is Peking duck with crispy skin, plum sauce and spring onions rolled in tiny pancakes, and served with a delicate Pinot Noir. The rich, sweet dark meat of the duck combined with the oil and crunch of the skin comes to life when lifted with the cherry, strawberry, plum and spicy flavours of Pinot Noir like those from Central Otago, Marlborough or Martinborough.

The acid in the wine cuts through the fat of the duck skin, while the savoury forest floor and mushroom characters in the Pinot help carry the savoury, soft spice flavours of the marinated duck skin and tender roasted meat. If you're a Pinot fan and haven't tried this food match, you should.

Other CNY Dishes and wines to match

Spring Rolls

Spring rolls represent wealth and money as their shape resembles gold bars. Typical filling is pork with chopped scallions and other vegetables.

Pair with: Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewürztraminer. You want a wine that will cut through the oiliness of the spring rolls, regardless of the filling. Try mildly herbaceous aromatic wines to mimic the herbs in the spring rolls, and acid to balance out the sauce.


As a traditional Chinese dining staple, dumplings also represent wealth. According to legend, the more dumplings you eat during the New Year's celebrations, the more wealth you invite into your life.

Pair with: Riesling, Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir

TIP: A light-bodied red such as Pinot Noir is the perfect match with any style of dumpling, regardless of the filling.

Steamed whole fish

Steamed whole fish poached in savoury soy sauce with ginger and spring onions. A whole fish is symbolic of abundance. The Chinese phrase you yu, literally "to have fish," is a pair of homophones: yu, meaning "fish," sounds exactly the same as you, meaning "surplus." As you eat the fish, you may therefore wish your friends niannian youyu—may you have abundance year after year!

Pair with: Riesling, as the acidity and touch of sweetness will echo the sauce.

Longevity Noodles

Longevity noodles represents happiness and longevity. Their length are symbolic of the eater's life. Longer than normal noodles and uncut, they are either fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with their broth (while enjoying the noodles, try not to break off the noodle you are picking up, since the longer it is, the longer it suggests your life will be).

Pair with: Pinot Gris. Its crisp acid, fresh fruit flavours and rich texture make it an ideal wine to pair with spicy or rich foods. It works well with both stir fry or broth-style longevity noodles.

Nian gao

Sometimes translated as 'New Year Cake', when made fresh, this is like a sticky jelly rice cake. After a few days, the chewy cake hardens and is cut into slices that are fried in a pan with a little egg wash and vegetable oil. This brings out a delicious smoky, nutty, fatty flavour that is sweet and moreish. 

Pair with: Oaked Chardonnay. Chardonnay slices through the fatty richness of the sugary cake and allows for a clean, green fruit explosion on the palate. The pungent and smoky flavours of the gelatinous cake are complementary to the wine's oaky, vanilla undertones, which results in a balanced finish.

Celebrate Chinese New Year – commencing 05 February

Check out these wines, perfect for celebrating CNY. Grab a bottle and head to your favourite Chinese Restaurant for a CNY experience.