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Editor at large Harvey Steiman joined Wine Spectator in 1983.
Harvey Steiman

A Soft White for an Asian-Accented Meal

Graff Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2007

Harvey Steiman
Posted: February 11, 2010

On another day of our trip to Maui (see my blog and last week’s pick), we dined at Pacific'O, James MacDonald's restaurant facing the beach in Lahaina. Most of the flavors coming to the table in the food involved Asian characteristics—a little bit sweet, with citrus, seafood and spices predominant. I cracked the wine list and immediately gravitated toward the Rieslings. Light, often a bit sweet themselves, and unsullied by oak, Rieslings are fun to drink on their own and match up well with this style of food.

Our server suggested Graff Riesling Mosel Kabinett 2007, from Germany, on the list at $32. It promised the best balance of fruit and not too much sweetness for the food. Wine Spectator hasn’t recently rated any Graff wines, but we decided to take a chance. The texture was soft and the flavors brimmed with peach and apricot. There was a touch of wet slate on the finish. I would have liked a tad more acidity, but the wine performed admirably with our various fish dishes. We liked it so much we ordered a second bottle. I rated it 87 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get our quick list of Top Values among German Rieslings.

Pacific Rim Winemakers
Portland, OR —  February 11, 2010 8:59am ET
Nothing like a Riesling with good Asian food!

Quek Li Fei
Singapore —  February 15, 2010 8:03pm ET
dry and off dry Rieslings (from Alsace, Clare Valley, New Zealand) are a good complement to most south east asian (thai, indonesian, malaysian, singapore) food. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (and Californian Fume Blanc) & unwooded Chardonnay is also a good match as is Chenin Blanc from S. Africa and vouvray. For other Asian food, rieslings & all the above whites are good and also for reds, Pinot Noir with peking duck, roast duck, pigeon, venison, suckling pig. Oldish (more than 5 years for a medium quality vintage) Bordeaux also fits the bill. For Indian food that's not too chili hot, CDP, Rose & Rose Champagne is fun.
Michael Kwok
Vancouver, BC —  February 16, 2010 3:10pm ET
While I also enjoy a good white with Asian food, I would like to add to the chorus of especially Asian wine drinkers who are more likely to leave this classical match in the wind.
I also believe that burgundy, loire reds (Saumur), bordeaux's (aged but also some yopung), etc can be good matches on a dish by dish basis. There are different cultural experiences that allow for us to accept conbinations that would otherwise not be deemed 'good' largely by the wine writers (read non-asian). As they say, do not judge a man until you've walked a mile... Same goes for palate.

(I.E does riesling (my fav white) go with Roast duck or would perhaps a red burg?)

The only thing I worry is that this standard is SO prevelent that it stops people from trying different combinations. This would creat a mono culture of food wine tastes that would take away from the variations that we have. For example, do we really want to lose italian reds that go so well with food just because some writers like to do a napa cab with a steak florentine? That would be a loss for the rest of italian food/wine combos.

Only thing I am suggesting is that when writing about food and wine combos for a foos category that you did not grow up solidily in (ie almost exclusive) the comboi needs to be annotated with the notion that this match works based on your cultural background and may not work for other global palates.

Phew... My $0.02.
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  February 16, 2010 7:13pm ET
All good points, Michael. In fact, the first person to open my eyes to the possibilities was Cecilia Chang. It was in the late 1970s at a special dinner in her San Francisco restaurant, The Mandarin, when she served Heitz Martha's Vineyard 1970 with Peking Duck. It all clicked for me.

For the record, though, note that in this particular situation I was looking to match a wine with Asian flavors in a Western meal, and mostly fish and seafood at that. And indeed those flavors tended to be sweet and spicy. I think you would have preferred the Riesling to a dry red too.
Michael Kwok
Vancouver, BC —  February 17, 2010 8:49pm ET

First of I need to apologize for my typing skills on m blackberry. I can't believe the number of mistakes.... I guess ten finges are better than two thumbs and a small screen.

Secondly, you are right Harvey, I agreed with your selection, which I did not make clear unfortunately. I was in fact, trying to respond to Mr. Quek's statement about trying a PN or a Bordeaux with a duck. Re-reading my respond I now I can see that I did not do a great job at that either.

Lesson learned :) Next time, I'll wait until I get home to be able to type on a computer and be able to review on a full screen :)

Leonard Cupo M D
Honolulu, Hawaii —  February 20, 2010 5:59am ET
Suggestions from an Italian in Hawaii. Don't forget Soave and Lugana, if you vote white, and Bardolino (hard to find in Hawaii) and Valpolicella, if red, for your Asian fish dishes. And close your eyes and dream of Lago di Garda.
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  February 20, 2010 11:28am ET
Or Friuli whites, Leonard. P.S., I have always thought that someone ought to do an Italian seafood restaurant in Hawaii. With Hawaii's fish and the Italian touch of simplicity, it would be great.

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