It’s the time of the year when moon gazing and the seasonal gift in Chinese culture, mooncake, are making a comeback for Mid-Autumn Festival. Tradition dictates that a pot of restorative pu’er tea or Osmanthus tea with the rich yolk-and-lotus seed mooncake is the norm on dinner table.
If, like us, you want to venture out of the comfort zone and reach for a more satisfying bottle of wine, a white, a red or little bit of both, here is your guide for a boozy Mid-Autumn Festival.
Rule No. 1: Play for the long game
If you are a veteran to the luscious pastry, you would know it’s not your walk-in-the-park dessert. From the classic Cantonese style lotus seed mooncake to the more contemporary variants of lava mooncake or ice cream mooncake, you don’t want to pick a wine that’s cloying and soporific that will send you straight into a stupor. But for anyone who’s looking to skip dish-washing duties, that will do the trick for sure.
The rule of thumb to pair with any rich and heavy pastries like the full-moon shaped mooncake is to look for wines that are crisp, sharp and energetic with a good amount of acidity.
A well-balanced Sauternes from Bordeaux’s famous sweet wine region with a backbone of racing acidity is always a crowd-pleaser. Its vibrant golden color adds more to the moon-gazing festivities as well. A few refreshing whites such as a young Chablis from Burgundy, an Albariño from Spain’s Galicia, a zappy Sancerre or a Vermentino from Sardinia should very well lubricate your dinner conversations.
If the filling of the mooncakes is leaning heavily on the meaty and nutty side, don’t be afraid to pair with reds like a Chianti or a floral Barolo from Piedmont.
Alternatively, a gritty, amber-colored, skin-contacted orange wine is immensely pleasurable for your average dinner crowd or inquisitive wine fanatics, if picked right. The extended period of skin contact during white wine fermentation often results in a wine that is dense, layered and exotic with aromas of tea leaf, orange blossom, apricot and honey. Seek out reputable producers who made consistently uncompromising orange wines such as Movia from Slovenia’s talented wine wizard Ales Kristančič or Gravner and Radikon in Italy’s Collio region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The worst that can happen is when guests are served a funky orange wine that smells like pig swill due to uncontrolled fermentation and sloppy winemaking. Trust us, there are plenty of that out there as well. Avoid them like the plague!
Rule No. 2: Keep it simple
If you are overwhelmed with food preparations, guest seating plans, allergies and all the chores, keep it simple with wine.
Picking wine should be a snap. With all things going on in 2020, wine should be the least of your stress. This is when we give you the bubbly solution, a sparkling wine.
It’s a rare style of wine that can pair with food from starter to dessert. With mooncakes, a Champagne that has gone through years of lee ageing should nicely compliment a nutty and rich-flavored mooncake, as it is redolent with bready, yeasty and nutty aromas itself.
A Brut or even a bone-dry Brut Nature with zero dosage will help cleanse your palate and cut through the richness in the mooncakes. A Blanc de Blancs, for example, from Champagne Agrapart & Fils or a vintage Champagne such as Bollinger Grande Année or Piper Heidsieck Rare will more than suffice.
If you are on a budget, you can supplant with other sparkling wine alternatives that are equally exciting. There is no shortage of well-crafted sparklers from Italy’s Franchiacorta DOCG and Prosecco DOC, or down in South Africa’s Cape Town. These bubbles will surely delight your intrepid wine friends.
Rule No. 3: Choose wines you like
This could sound self-indulgent but think about it, at the end of the day it’s about opening a bottle or bottles that you would want to keep going back to. You don’t have to over-exert yourself by calculating if the acidity in a wine is enough to stand up to the richness in the mooncake or it counters the sweetness of the fillings, or worse yet, if your guests will accuse your wines of aggressively assaulting their delicate taste buds. None of that will happen. If you love the wines you picked, your friends will do too. If not, get new ones!
Champagne Agrapart et Fils 7 Cru Brut NV
Champagne Bollinger Grande Année 2004
Champagne Drappier Brut Nature NV
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Rare Brut Millesime 2002
Bellavista Alma Gran Cuvée Brut NV Franciacorta DOCG
Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvée Prestige” Franciacorta DOCG
Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico Brut NV
William Fevre Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre Domaine 2017
Jean Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017
Louis Latour Chablis 1er Cru 2018
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Satellite 2012
Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna Is Argiolas 2019
Guado Al Tasso Vermentino Bolgheri DOC 2017
Paco Y Lola Albarino Rias Baixas 2018
David & Nadia Chenin Blanc Swartland 2018
Caffagio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
Avignonesi Da Di Toscano Rosso 2018
Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2004
Vietti, “Castiglione” Barolo DOCG 2016
Borgogno Barolo Liste 2006
Massolino Barolo DOCG “Margheria” 2006
Movia Rebula Brda Slovenia 2017
Gravner Venezia Giulia Bianco Breg IGT 2008
Radikon Oslavje 2013