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I recently chatted with Master Sommelier Alpana Singh, director of wine and spirits for the Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. She's just revamped the wine list for one of L.E.Y.E.'s concepts, Big Bowl, with biodynamic and organic wines to pair with its Asian-inspired food. (Full disclosure: I used to work at a Big Bowl restaurant in my teens.) Here, she recommends a rule of thumb for pairing wine with Chinese and Thai flavors and offers three great biodynamic and organic selections. The best part? They all retail for under $20.
What do you look for in wines to go with Asian food?
"I look for wines that offer a good amount of fruitiness since [with Thai and Chinese cooking] you're using ingredients like hoisin, chiles, garlic and ginger that have strong flavors. You need wines that could trump those assertive flavors."
What are three great recommendations?
2006 Santa Julia Vida Organica Malbec "This wine has gobs of berry, plummy flavor with a sweet, round finish. It's great with dishes that are hoisin- or black-bean- sauce-based."
2006 Bonny Doon Ca' Del Solo Sangiovese "This new biodynamic Bonny Doon has a ripe cherry fruit profile. Sangioveses are typically paired with tomato sauce but I think this would be great with pad thai which is limey and has a little bit of sweetness."
2007 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio "This is a nice crisp, clean white that would go with simple stir-fries with a ginger-based sauce or deep-fried calamari. The winery is completely sustainable—it and even generates electricity for the village it's in."