A vino for both sweet and savory mooncakes
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of most traditional Chinese celebrations and one of the most important holiday customs is enjoying mooncakes. Customarily enjoyed with Chinese tea, these tasty treats are even more delectable when paired with the proper wines.
The most popular sweet mooncakes have a lotus seed paste or red bean paste fillings inside a flakey or chewy crust. The lotus seed paste filling is considered by some as the original mooncake, while the more affordable red bean paste cakes are now the most popular.
Two other popular traditional styles are the jujube, made from the ripe fruits of the date-like jujube plant and the five nut cake made of five types of nuts and seeds that are coarsely chopped and bonded by a sweet syrup. All these sweet mooncakes perform best with sweet wines. There are many suitable sweet partners but one style of wine is particularly synergistic.
There are other more famous sparkling wines like Champagne and in Italy Prosecco but neither wines pair so beautifully with sweet mooncakes as Moscato d’Asti sparkling wines. These slightly sparkling or as the Italians call them frizzante wines feature an abundance of perfumed aromas and sweet fruit flavors to nicely mirror the sweetness of the mooncakes while also providing an underlying freshness to cleanse your palate of the sweet, dense filling.
Moscato d’Asti wines come from the hilltop village of Asti in the Piedmont region in Northeast Italy. When making the wines the fermentation process is stopped before completion resulting in higher levels of sugars and lower alcohol. At only about 5-7 percent alcohol, these aromatic wines while attractively fruity and sweet also feature remarkably good acidity.
This balance makes them eminently drinkable and very food-friendly. In recognition of their quality, Moscato d’Asti wines were granted the highest DOCG designation by Italian authorities.
One of my favorites is made by the producer L’Armangia who are also renowned for their excellent single vineyard Barbera red wines. Their Moscato d’Asti wine is profusely floral with expressive apricot, peach and mango flavors, making it a winner with sweet mooncakes as well as other sweet snacks.
Other fine Moscato d’Asti producers that have wines available in Shanghai include Batasiolo, Pio Cesare and La Spinetta.
But mooncakes are not exclusively sweet so we also need great wine partners for salty versions. The savory qualities of salty mooncakes make them perfect partners for a medium body red wine with moderate tannins and good acidity. Salty mooncakes, especially those that have pastries made with lard, greatly benefit from a proper red wine.
Whether your mooncake has a meat, salty egg or nut filling, a young Valpolicalla or Chianti from Italy or Pinot Noir from Burgundy, New Zealand or the Pacific Northwest will bring out the best savory qualities of the mooncake while also providing welcome digestive assistance.
Where to buy in Shanghai