Rice wines are as much a part of China’s food culture as tea, and this is truer of the Yangtze River area than just about anywhere else. Jiangsu and Zhejiang in particular enjoy an historic reputation for the exceptional quality of their wines. In fact, this region is a bit like the Loire Valley in France when it comes to discussions of a wine-based food culture, as countless dishes have been designed to complement wine and also incorporate it as a main component in the seasoning.
|Inexpensive yet good Shaoxing wines|
The other main types of rice wine are mĭjĭu 米酒, which is referred to in this blog as a “mild rice wine,” as it has the most subtle flavor and is closest of the Chinese wines to Japanese sake. Very similar to that is the general category known as cooking wine (liàojĭu 料酒), which usually is of lesser quality than the wines destined for drinking; it often has a bit of salt added to deter its direct consumption, and a good example of this is Taiwanese Mijiu (or "Cooking Michiu," as it says on the label.
|My preferred cooking wine|
Connoisseurs often debate the proper pairing of wines with foods here with the same vociferousness that can be found in the West. And although Western-style grape wines are increasing in popularity and hearty red ones in particular are sometimes served with the foods of China, one must choose carefully to find a good match.
|Warm your rice wine before imbibing|
But then again, as with so many things having to do with fine dining, the most important factor is what tastes best to you. And if wine of any stripe does not suit your fancy, beer goes admirably with most of China’s savory foods, while tea is the perfect after-dinner refreshment.