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Wine Me, Dine Me

[whitespace] Wines and beer that complement Vietnamese cuisine

By Michael Stabile

Vietnamese cuisine is much more flexible than most for matching food and wine. Unlike spicy Indian or Thai food, which generally require a peppery gewürztraminer or sweet riesling to mitigate the curry assault, Vietnamese cuisine contains the softer flavors of lemongrass, mint, coriander, ginger and lime. A mineral sauvignon blanc, especially a flinty sancerre, would be better paired with imperial rolls or deep-fried crabs than would an oaked California chardonnay, which might become cloying when tasted with sweet peanut sauce. A more complex chardonnay without much oak or vanilla could meet the challenge of many lighter, noodle-based entrees. Aromatic meat dishes, like shaken beef or pork shish kabob, are best suited to fruity reds, like a young pinot noir or beaujolais, or to a peppery zinfandel or syrah. A subtle tannic red like cabernet sauvignon would be overpowered by the pungent flavor.

The three most common Vietnamese beer exports are Hue, '33' and Saigon Export. These beers, with slight variation, are similar in structure and mouth feel to Budweiser but tend to be more metallic, even tinny. Although each is refreshing, one is really better off with Tsingtao, a Chinese export found at many Asian restaurants.

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From the November 16-29, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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