Story: Da Thuong   

With Tet arriving, try these suggestions for finding the perfect wine for your holiday meals.

As wine continues to grow in popularity in Vietnam, connoisseurs are still in the process of discovering the best pairings for the complex and spicy flavor profiles of Vietnamese cuisine. While the old-time rule of thumb that red wine goes with meat and white wine with seafood is worth keeping in mind, it doesn’t hold fast when considering the overall characteristics of many Vietnamese dishes, which are more often focused on sauces, vegetables and herbs and blend different flavors than Western foods. Below are some suggestions for your own perfect pairings of wine and Vietnamese food.

For starters such as banana flower salad, pomelo salad or spring rolls, Argentine Torrontes wine is a good choice. This wine from Cafayate Valley goes well with foods based on vegetables and herbs. A 2014 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, with peach and white pear notes, is a good start for your Tet feasts. Another white to try is Gruner Veltliner, a dry white wine from Austria for herb-based foods using ginger, lemongrass or coriander. Its hints of green pepper and herbs mix well with the flavors of many Vietnamese dishes. A 2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, characterized by a soothing herbal aroma goes well with some dishes such as fried squid or roast pork.

A German Riesling can also pair nicely with fatty and greasy dishes. The 2013 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling, which strikes a balance between sweet peach and sour pear tastes, end together with a pleasing mildness.

Some white wines with higher alcohol and acidity, such as sparkling wines, Rieslings and Rhône Valley wines are generally deemed less suitable for Vietnamese foods.

Stay away from tannin rich red wine

Several red wines, such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, match well with spicy Vietnamese dishes and those that are grilled or blackened with flavors such as satay sauce and garlic. However, while enjoying spicy foods, avoid wines with high alcohol or tannin levels as high alcohol tends to negatively accentuate the heat level.

Sommelier Franck Machu of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City recommends 2009 Lawson’s Dry Hill red wine and Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand for a dish such as blackened barramundi served with soy sauce and green pepper. Other red wines that suit Vietnamese foods include Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosso NV from Italy (try it with bun cha) and Belle Pente Pinot Noir 2013 from Oregon, US (a perfect choice for beef pho). In addition, lighter-bodied wines such as Cabernet Franc and Beaujolais can make good matches.

Of course, the above are mere guidelines to enrich your Tet feasts. One of the great pleasures of wine is finding your own perfect pairings to match a favorite dish.